China's CEFC reportedly leading chase for Czech engineer ZDAS

By bne IntelliNews February 24, 2016

China Energy Company Limited (CEFC) has offered the highest bid for Czech engineering company ZDAS and is now in talks with the company’s Slovak owner, unnamed sources claimed on February 24.

CEFC has reportedly offered $100mn for ZDAS, sources close to the negotiations told Hospodarske Noviny. The offer for the Czech company, which employs 2,500, follows a series of other relatively small acquisitions by the mysterious Chinese giant in the Central European country last year, including a brewery, a football club and a high-profile historic building in the centre of Prague.

The shopping spree was kicked off by an agreement to buy into J&T banka, the banking unit of closely-held Slovak oligarch group J&T. CEFC, which is speculated to be close to the Chinese military, also bought small stakes in a charter airline and media in 2015.

Meanwhile, it is believed the company is close to sealing a deal to buy the retail unit of the largest Czech telecom, O2 CR from PPF. The seller is the investment vehicle of oligarch Petr Kellner, who has long been associated with J&T, especially via energy holding EPH, which has shown a ravenous appetite for Central European energy assets in recent years, despite curiosity over its funding sources.

The Chinese energy giant has said it is seeking to make the Central European country a base for its European investments. However, the assets it has bought so far seem more suited to the profile of J&T, which runs retail chains and real estate deals in the region.

The Chinese company has been also mentioned as looking for acquisitions in neighbouring Slovakia. Last year, local media speculated that CEFC would be interested in acquiring a stake in Tatry Mountain Resorts, a leader in the operation of mountain resorts and provision of tourist services in Central Europe. ZDAS, based in Zdar nad Sazavou, is part of the Slovakia’s Zeleziarne Podbrezova Group.

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