Barceló Acquires 42.5% Stake In Occidental Hoteles

5 May 2015 – Expansión

42.5% shareholding / The tourism group acquires the stakes held by Amancio Ortega, owner of Inditex, and several minority shareholders, and continues to negotiate with BBVA to take control of the chain.

The sale of Occidental Hoteles has been unblocked with Barceló’s purchase of a share of its capital. The tourist group has acquired a 42.5% stake from Amancio Ortega, owner of the textile empire Inditex, and several minority shareholders. In parallel, it is also negotiating with BBVA, which controls the remaining 57.5%, to gain control of 100% of Occidental and strengthen its position in the Caribbean.

Although the exact amount of the transaction is unknown, it has been closed with a discount of between 40% and 50% with respect to the €700 million that BBVA and Ortega paid in 2007. That was the figure that the shareholders hoped to obtain through the divestment process launched in 2013, which was thwarted last December, with Barceló as the favourite, due to differences over price.

Then, Barceló was bidding together with the fund Caribbean Property Group (CPG). Now, the tourism group is going to single-handedly undertake the purchase of the shares held by Ortega (who holds 23.63% through his company Partler 2006), Gregorio de Diego (who controls 13.5% through Tamar International) and the Miarnau family (whose company Iosa Inmuebles holds 5.26%).

Competition

The transaction, which is pending approval by the Mexican competition authorities, will be structured as a financial investment, and so Barceló will not take over the management of Occidental’s hotels. The chain operates 13 properties in the Caribbean and owns the majority of those establishments.

Nevertheless, sources in the sector are convinced that BBVA will end up selling a non-strategic stake. In fact, that is the joint position that the entity chaired by Francisco González and Amancio Ortega held until the end of 2014. The only thing that has separated them has been the timing (of their respective exits).

The textile businessman wanted to accelerate his exit from Occidental before the company looses value, since there is no growth plan on the table. In contrast, BBVA was keen to wait for a better offer and set a limit below which it was not willing to divest. In the end, the partners have broken their shareholders’ agreement, which has opened the door to Occidental for Barceló.

In terms of convincing BBVA, the close ties that unite the companies work in the tourism group’s favour. Barceló, BBVA and FCC created an asset company Grubarges in 1998, with the aim of channelling its surplus investors and growing in the hotel sector. Grubarges was dissolved in 2004 due to strategic differences between the partners, but the relationship is still strong.

If Barceló acquires 100% of Occidental, it will strengthen its position in the Caribbean, one of the priorities on its roadmap to become the world leader in the holiday hotel sector. Through the integration, Barceló would obtain a presence in new countries – Colombia, Aruba and Haití – and would strengthen its position in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Costa Rica. Furthermore, the transaction would involve an investment plan to reposition Occidental’s properties.

Barceló currently operates 94 hotels and 30,000 rooms in 16 countries. In 2014, the company generated profits of €46.4 million, up 85.6% and turnover of €2,056.6 million, up 6.2%.

Original story: Expansión (by Yovanna Blanco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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