BUSINESS

Paneuropean Oil buys extra 8.2 pct stake in Hellenic Petroleum

CHRYSSA LIAGGOU

As was widely expected, the Latsis industrial and banking group yesterday acquired an additional 8.2 percent stake in Greece's biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE), according to a statement by the Economy and Finance Ministry. The sale involved the transfer of 25,079,700 shares - recently transferred to the Public Portfolio Management Company (DEKA) upon the maturation of a convertible bond issued by Hellenic Finance - at a price of 7.65 euros each. It raises the Latsis Group's holding in HELPE to 32.88 percent. The proceeds for the Greek State amount to 191.86 million euros. While the State holding in HELPE decreased to 35.5 percent, the Finance Ministry noted that the sale does not enhance the current management participation rights or add to the Latsis Group presence on HELPE's board of directors. The Greek government agreed to the sale of the tranche to the Latsis Group through the latter's member Paneuropean Oil & Industrial Holdings, taking into consideration the proposals of its advisers, the National Bank of Greece and UBS. The same advisers had also recommended the previous sale, of an initial 16.65 percent tranche to Paneuropean, when it agreed to merge its Petrola refinery with HELPE last year. According to the statement, the advisers submitted their recommendations after giving consideration to a number of criteria, including the maximization of benefits for the State, the maintenance of the current management scheme and the reduction of the public debt. The statement noted that the sale price carried a significant premium. HELPE's shares yesterday closed at 6.76 euros. The ministry said it would not have been possible to sell the stake to another strategic investor without the government giving up additional rights in the management of the company, in contrast to the terms of the agreement reached. Furthermore, issuing a new convertible bond would not have led to a decrease of the public debt, as defined by Eurostat, but to additional financial burdens on the State. The ministry also noted that «with this sale, the Greek State has also succeeded in strengthening the company, widening its strategic alliance with Paneuropean while also maintaining control of HELPE.»

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