October 5 (SeeNews) - A group of institutional investors is considering disposing of their equity holdings in Croatia's Podravka unless the food and beverage company promptly defuses the so-called Spice affair and allows them to participate in its supervision and management, local news daily Poslovni Dnevnik reported on Monday, not naming its source.
The group, which includes all pension and some investment funds that are shareholders in the food company, collectively owns between 21% and 23% of Podravka and is considering opening an international tender to find a buyer, Poslovni (www.poslovni.hr) said.
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Podravka's two biggest shareholders as of September 25, 2009, were Fima AMI Ltd with 10.64% and HFP/HZMO (Croatian Privatisation Fund/Croatian Institute for Pension Insurance) with 10.62%, the latest data available on the food company's website indicated. They are followed by HFP with 9.84%, UniCredit Bank Austria AG with 8.23%, mandatory pension fund PBZ Croatia osiguranje d.d. OMF with 6.46%, investment fund Kapitalni fond with 5.94%, mandatory pension fund Erste Plavi OMF with 5.78%, mandatory pension fund Raiffeisen OMF with 3.26% and closed-end investment fund Slavonski ZIF with 1.19%.
The group of investors may sell their equity to a foreign strategic partner or an international financial institution as it would be very hard to find a quality local buyer for such a large share package while offloading the stakes piecemeal on the bourse would be pointless, Poslovni reported.
The Spice affair unfolded in the wake of media reports claiming the existence of a secret plan - codenamed Project Spice, for a management buyout at Podravka dating back to 2006.
Austria's Raiffeisen Centrobank (RCB) last Friday downgraded to "reduce" from “hold” its recommendation on the Podravka stock.
“We expect further dubious past transactions to be discovered in the wake of a police investigation and media hype and change our recommendation from “hold” to “reduce” until the case is completely cleared,” RCB said in a statement.
Blue-chip Podravka said in July its preliminary half-year consolidated net profit fell by an annual 24.4% to 17.3 million kuna.
Podravka shares were trading at 261.01 kuna by 1143 GMT on the Zagreb bourse, down from 270 kuna at Friday’s close.
(1 euro=7.273 Croatian kuna)