Polish insist Russians can't buy chemicals giant Grupa Azoty

By bne IntelliNews June 13, 2014

Jan Cienski in Warsaw -

 

Sometimes no really does mean no – that's the message Poland's treasury ministry is sending to ardent suitors from Russia's Acron Group, who are reviving an effort to take over Polish chemicals giant Grupa Azoty.

Acron this week raised its stake in Azoty to 20%, and announced it was keen to merge with its Polish rival. In a statement, Vladimir Kantor, the Russian company's vice president, said Azoty would benefit by gaining access to Acron's potash and phosphate deposits. “We highly estimate the synergy potential of undertaken consolidation of Grupa Azoty assets and see the prospects for cost reduction and resource optimisation,” he said.

That fell on deaf ears at the treasury, which has a 33% stake in the Polish company and which reiterated its position from 2012, the last time Acron tried to take over Azoty. “Grupa Azoty is treated as a strategic company by the treasury ministry. The ministry does not intend to sell the Group's shares,” it said in a statement.

That last attempt led to the creation of a poison pill defence making it almost impossible to undertake a hostile takeover. The company's statues cap voting shares at 20%, as long as the treasury holds more than 20% of the company.

The Polish government has been resistant to allowing a takeover of Azoty, fearing both the political fallout from selling an important company to Russians and worrying about job losses. Unions immediately protested Acron's higher stake.

With the government showing no sign at all of shifting its position, Acron's purchase of Azoty shares is a bit of a headscratcher. Analysts point out out that Azoty is already more expensive than other Polish chemicals companies. The one thing the Russians do gain from hitting 20% of Azoty is the right to appoint a board member.

Azoty's shares were down 3% at PLN74 (€17.96), in June 13 afternoon trading on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

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