NH’s Board Will Assess Potential Merger with Barceló on 20 December

2 December 2017 – Expansión

Advisors / NH Hotel Group and Grupo Barceló have made initial contact through their advisor banks, Merrill Lynch and Banco Santander, respectively.

Progress is being made in what is shaping up to be the mega-operation of the decade in the hotel sector in Spain. The members of the most senior governing body of NH Hotel Group have agreed to meet on 20 December to study a possible merger with the firm’s rival Grupo Barceló.

At the meeting, NH’s Board of Directors will address the proposal made by its rival to integrate the businesses of the two groups and create a “national giant” with more than 600 hotels and 109,000 rooms around the world. This hotel giant would be controlled by Barceló (60% stake), and the current shareholders of NH would hold the remaining 40% share, as Expansión revealed on 20 November.

NH’s directors will consider preliminary reports from Merrill Lynch at this first meeting. The bank has been chosen by the hotel group’s management committee to analyse the operation.

The letter signed by Simón Pedro Barceló, Co-President of Grupo Barceló’s Board of Directors, is dated 14 November, which is when NH’s Board of Directors last met to approve the firm’s quarterly accounts. Nevertheless, the operation in question was not discussed at that meeting.

In his letter, Barceló proposed a period of up to three months to complete the preliminary work and submit a transaction proposal for approval by the governing bodies of both companies. Barceló, which in its offer letter values NH at €2,480 million, has engaged Banco Santander to analyse the operation. The financial advisors of the two companies are now in contact.

Stock price increase

NH’s shares have soared in value by more than 20% since Barceló announced its intention to integrate the two companies.

Barceló’s proposal values each NH share at €7.08, which would represent a premium of 17% over the current list price of €6.03. The endorsement of the market for this operation, as well as the first valuations of the advisor bank, will be one of the matters that the members of the Board will take into account.

NH’s most senior governing body is chaired by Alfredo Fernández Agras, who represents the British fund Oceanwood (which holds a 12% stake in NH). Moreover, its members include Ramón Aragonés –CEO of NH–, José Antonio Castro Sousa and Jordi Ferrer Graupera, both representatives of Hesperia.

The group chaired by Castro – a priori, one of the people who is most opposed to the agreement – announced on Monday that it had early repaid a loan granted by Santander for €122.7 million guaranteed by 31,870,384 NH shares, representing 9.1% of the share capital (its stake in the group).

To repay that loan, which was due to expire on 23 December 2017, the company has signed a new financing agreement with Société Générale for €97.55 million, guaranteed by the same shares, explain financial sources to Expansión.

By contrast, HNA does not have any representatives on the Board of Directors, even though it is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 29.5% stake.

The Chinese conglomerate was expelled in June 2016 due to a conflict of interest after it made an agreement to buy Carlson Rezidor, which competes with the Spanish firm in several European countries.

In its place, Paul Daniel Johnson, Fernando Lacadena Azpeitia, María Grecna and José María Cantero de Montes-Jovellar were appointed, at the request of the funds, to serve as independent directors. José María López-Elola González and José María Sagardoy also feature in that category.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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