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NH Rejects Barceló’s Offer But is Willing to Consider Other Proposals

11 January 2018 – Expansión

Yesterday, the Board of Directors of the NH Hotel Group revealed its position regarding the proposal made by Barceló to merge the two businesses. And, although it expressed its “unanimous” rejection of the offer, it did say it was willing to consider future “strategic opportunities” within the framework of “the consolidation trends that are prevailing in the sector”.

“The Board has carefully considered the fact that the proposed structure – a merger – would not allow for the creation of value for our shareholders over and above that already forecast for NH operating independently”. In its analysis, the Board does not consider appropriate “either the intrinsic value assigned to NH by the Barceló Group’s offer, or its scope or the exchange ratio offered”, according to the explanation presented to the CNMV.

The Co-President of Barceló, Simón Pedro Barceló, sent a letter addressed to NH’s Board of Directors in November, proposing the integration of the two groups to create a “national champion” with more than 600 hotels and 110,000 rooms around the world, as Expansión revealed on 20 November.

The Mallorcan group proposed taking control of 60% of the resultant (merged) company and for the remaining 40% to end up in the hands of the shareholders of the NH Hotel Group. It also set the price of the latter at €7.08 per share, which meant valuing the company at €2.48 billion.

Exchange ratio

For NH’s most senior governing body, which met yesterday for the second time to analyse the proposal made by its competitor, the exchange ratio proposed by Barceló does not reflect the relative valuation of the two companies, nor does it incorporate a control premium over NH’s share value or take into account the potential appreciation in the firm’s share price operating independently. Moreover, NH’s directors emphasised that the offer does not open a window of liquidity for its shareholders. The offer – which is non-binding and conditional upon a due diligence (detailed analysis) – proposes an integration with NH Hotel in exchange for shares issued by the latter, with the resultant company being listed. This operation, therefore, would effectively allow Barceló – which is owned by the third generation of the family of the same name – to debut on the stock market.

“The Board has valued very negatively the fact that the offer from Grupo Barceló lacks liquidity for NH’s shareholders”, reiterated the Board of the listed company.

NH’s Board of Directors includes Alfredo Fernández Agras, representative of Oceanwood (with 12% of NH’s share capital); José Antonio Castro and Jordi Ferrer Graupera, both representatives of Hesperia, with a 9.1% stake; and Ramón Aragonés, CEO of NH. By contrast, HNA does not have a presence on the Board, despite being the majority shareholder, with a 29.5% stake. The Chinese giant was expelled (from the Board) in June 2016 due to a conflict of interest after it signed a purchase agreement with Carlson Rezidor, which competes with the Spanish firm in certain European countries.

Sources at Barceló expressed their respect regarding NH’s decision, although they acknowledged that the position adopted by their rival left them with “a bitter taste since they had not been able to convince the Board of the good intentions behind the operation”. And they added: “We think that the offer was good for the Spanish hotel industry, the shareholders of NH and Barceló and the economy of the country as a whole, which would have benefitted from having a national champion to go out and compete seriously overseas”.

In response to NH’s rejection, Barceló “said the discussion was over”. According to sources at the company, “no other proposals are possible”.

The decision of NH’s Board of Directors was made public at the end of trading. NH’s shares finished trading yesterday at a price of €6.115 per share, after rising by 1.83%. Since Barceló expressed its interest in NH, the share price of the latter has increased by 22% (…).

NH closed 2016 with sales of €1.475 billion, an EBITDA of €181 million and a net profit of €30.8 million. The group’s strategic plan for the next three years forecasts a recurring profit of €100 million and an EBITDA of up to €290 million in 2019.

Meanwhile, Barceló closed 2016 with turnover of €2.855 billion, net sales of €1.98 billion, an EBITDA of €339 million and a net profit of €125 million.

At the operating level, NH has 380 hotels and 59,000 rooms in more than thirty countries, whilst Barceló owns more than 230 hotels in 22 countries and almost 52,000 rooms.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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