Marfin takes majority in Attica

Marfin Investment Group (MIG) yesterday bought a majority stake in Greek ferry operator Attica Holdings as part of its plans to expand into non-banking sectors. MIG, Greece’s biggest investment firm, said in a stock market filing it had agreed to buy a 49.9 percent stake in Attica Holdings for 5.50 euros a share, raising its total share of the firm to 51.3 percent. The price translates to a 2.2 percent discount on Attica Holdings’ closing price of -5.62 on Tuesday, and makes the purchase a total cost of just under -290 million, according to Reuters calculations. At 1014 GMT, MIG shares were up 0.3 percent at -6.72, while Attica Holdings’ were down 2.85 percent at -5.46. MIG, which was spun off from Marfin Popular Bank, has been making several private-equity investments recently in a bid to take advantage of investment opportunities in Southeastern Europe. It raised -5.2 billion through an oversubscribed rights issue in July and has said it plans to start investing the funds in various sectors. «The move is good for MIG, as the money it raised is not just sitting there but being invested to produce returns,» said an analyst who declined to be named. MIG currently holds a 10.8 percent stake in Greek telecoms group OTE and a majority stake in Greek food group Vivartia. Attica Holdings, with a market value of about -585 million, holds a majority stake in Blue Star Maritime. It operates in the popular Aegean Islands and the Adriatic and North Seas and competes with Minoan Lines and Hellenic Seaways. Under Greek law, Marfin should now submit a public offer to buy the remaining stake in Attica. MIG said Pericles Panagopoulos will remain Attica’s chairman, while MIG’s vice president, Andreas Vgenopoulos, will take over as vice president of Attica. »I am confident that the company (Attica) under his (Panagopoulos) leadership and our strong, all-around support, will continue to create considerable value for all its shareholders,» Vgenopoulos said in a statement. MIG trades about 10.5 times its estimated 2007 earnings, compared with a multiple of 24.55 and 17.30 for Belgian peers GBL and NPM/CNP, according to Reuters Estimates. Attica trades 40 times its forecast 2007 profit, compared with a 17 multiple for its European peers. (Reuters)

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