Brexit to harm Romania’s Fondul Proprietatea, Mobius warns

Brexit to harm Romania’s Fondul Proprietatea, Mobius warns
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest April 27, 2016

A possible exit of the UK from the European Union would “create a lot of complications” for Romanian property restitution fund Fondul Proprietatea (FP), Mark Mobius, the executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, told a press conference in Bucharest on April 27.

FP, which is managed by Franklin Templeton Investments and was originally set up to compensate Romanians who had lost property and other assets under the former communist regime, launched its secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange in April 2015.

“As you know, Fondul is now listed in London, and the Brexit will create a lot of complications. There will have to be changes in a lot of ways of doing business in London and there may even be an exit of money from London. We would say that a Brexit decision would be negative for us and other investors around the world,” Mobius said.

Meanwhile, the fund is still interested in continuing negotiations with power distribution group Electrica on the sale of the minority stakes it holds in four regional subsidiaries of the company, FP manager Greg Konieczny said on April 27.

At the end of March, FP and Electrica failed to reach an agreement on the price for the minority stakes. Negotiations with Electrica are not expected to start before the power distribution company, which is 49% state-owned, names a new CEO. Electrica’s management board decided in March to remove Ioan Rosca from the CEO position following internal disputes.

After several rounds of negotiations, FP’s final asking price was lowered to RON805mn (€180.2mn) to be paid by Electrica for its 22% holdings in the four subsidiaries. The fund also offered to pay back to Electrica the RON36mn received as dividends from the subsidiaries. However, the final price offered by Electrica was RON790mn and included RON106mn in 2016 dividends from the subsidiaries for the 2015 financial year that FP would have had to transfer to Electrica.

“We are still interested in doing this transaction because I think it would create a lot of value for our shareholders and Electrica’s shareholders, of course if the price is right. And given the fact there is no CEO right now with Electrica, I think it’s fair to say that once Electrica selects the CEO, they are ready to start discussions with us again. We are very much interested,” Konieczny told the news conference in Bucharest.

Konieczny also commented on FP’s IPO pipeline, saying that he expects state-controlled hydropower company Hidroelectrica to exit insolvency procedures in June at the latest and to launch an IPO in November.

”In terms of IPO calendar, the strongest candidate is Hidroelectrica, where work is progressing, the company should exist insolvency as soon as May, June at the latest, which basically opens doors for the IPO that is right now scheduled for October to November,” Konieczny said.

Hidroelectrica’s IPO should be by far the largest offering in Romania this year, but it could also be the largest in the CEE region, he added. This would also have positive effects on the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

”Our hope is that this could bring a real change to the stock exchange and capital markets and significantly improve liquidity, as well as helping to attract investors and bringing valuations higher for the entire market,” Konieczny said.

Local media recently reported that FP could participate in the IPO together with the Romanian state, which holds 80% of the hydropower producer. FP plans to sell up to 5% of its holding in the company.

However, no decision has been made yet. “We are discussing with the government and the other shareholders in Hidroelectrica and waiting for their endorsement for this transaction,” Konieczny said, adding that this could help to achieve a better price for the IPO because the large offerings attract more large investors that can push the price up.

FP recently exited the shareholding structure of Romanian gas company Romgaz, by selling its remaining 5.85% stake.

The sale of FP’s stake in Romgaz was the second largest accelerated bookbuilding offering (ABO) in Romania since the $199mn Romgaz ABO in June 2014. FP sold its 22.54mn shares in Romgaz, 20.28mn in the form of shares and 2.25mn in the form of global depositary receipts (GDR), under an accelerated bookbuild offering. The shares were priced at RON24 and $6.09, at a 7.9% discount to last closing price. 91% of the demand came from institutional investors and only 9% from retail.


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