China’s CEFC said to pay €72mn to raise stake in Slovak investment group J&T

By bne IntelliNews October 19, 2015

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China Energy Company Limited (CEFC) has paid CZK1.94bn (€72mn) to increase its stake in Slovak investment group J&T Group, local media reported on October 19.

The acquisition by CEFC will see its interest in J&T, which concentrates its operations in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, rise from 5.0% to 8.8%, according to E15. The move is part of the Chinese company’s initial plan to double its holding in J&T to 9.9%. It hopes to boost its holding to 30% eventually.

CEFC's acquisition of the closely-held Slovak financial group comes amid a recent buying spree that saw it acquire stakes in a Czech brewery, football club, airline, as well as media companies and real estate in the country. The Chinese energy giant says it is seeking to make the Central European country a base for its European investments.

Critics claim the purchase of the J&T stake is a bid to access data on the many Slovak and Czech oligarchs and politicians that reportedly hold accounts at J&T Banka. It's notable that CEFC's other investments in the Czech Republic fit the profile of J&T far better than that of an international energy giant. CEFC has remained all but absent from local media, despite its apparent quest to base a European hub in the country.

Cooperation between CEFC and J&T began in October 2014, when Czech President Milos Zeman led a trade delegation to Beijing accompanied by J&T representatives. During that trip, J&T signed a strategic cooperation agreement with CEFC.

Patrik Tkac, a co-founder of J&T - which is also a major shareholder in Czech-based energy holding EPH - said at the time that the agreement, aimed at providing new opportunities in the financial services field, was just the first step towards deeper cooperation. There is also speculation that the Chinese company could be bankrolling EPH's voracious buying of European energy assets.

Tkac and co-founder Ivan Jakabovic own the remaining shares in J&T. The group is mainly active in private and retail banking, asset management, investment banking and project financing. Besides Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it also has activities in Croatia and Russia. CEFC is the sixth largest privately-owned company in China. It is active in the finance, energy and infrastructure sectors.

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