OTE falls on news of 8 pct share sale

The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) yesterday saw its shares slide by 3.08 percent to 16.98 euros on the heels of a 1.24-percent decline on Wednesday, as investors reacted to the government’s announcement of the sale of an 8-percent stake in the telecoms operator. The State, which currently holds a 41.76-percent stake, is selling 40,320,000 ordinary shares via an accelerated book-building placement. It publicized its plans on Wednesday in a stock exchange announcement. While the news took many by surprise, with many expecting a sale later in the year, analysts welcomed the move. «This was very sudden. However, it’s very professionally done. In effect, it’s a small initial public offering,» said Constantinos Karitsos of Intersec Securities. He said an over-the-counter sale shows the government does not want to create a stock overhang. The equity sale is «a long-term positive for liquidity in the stock,» Schroder Salomon Smith Barney said in a research note, as it lifts OTE’s investable free float to 60 percent from its current 52 percent. The book-building kicked off yesterday and the sale is scheduled to be completed on July 13. Karitsos said strong investor interest means the sale could be finalized as early as last night. Ninety percent of the issue has been allocated for foreign institutional investors and the remaining 10 percent for the local market. The price range is reportedly in the 16.50 euro to 17.25 euro range, which would raise between 665 million and 695 million euros for the State. The new shareholders will be entitled to the dividend for 2001, set at 0.7043 euros, which makes for a 4.1-percent dividend yield. The State also agreed to a lock-up period of 180 days on subsequent sales of its remaining 33.76-percent share. Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley have been appointed joint book-runners for the placement and EFG Telesis Finance the joint lead manager. Separately, the government yesterday said it plans to divest a 19-percent stake in soccer pools and lottery operator OPAP in mid-July via an initial public offering and a private placement. It floated 5 percent of the company last year. Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, Alpha Finance and EFG Eurobank Ergasias have been appointed the lead underwriters.

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