21 May 2015 – Expansión
153 MILLION / The bank has divested after five months at 5.1 euros per share, in line with the listed price.
Banco Santander has ended a two-and-a-half-year affair with the NH Hotel Group. Yesterday, the financial institution, headed by Ana Botin, placed for sale its 8.56% stake of the hotel chain at 5.10 euros per share. The ask price was hardly a discount off the listed price of NH, which closed flat at 5.17 euros thanks to high demand. The transaction amounted to 153 million euros.
Santander’s stake has been split almost entirely among three foreign funds that already held stakes in NH: BlackRock, Henderson and Oceanwood. Following the transaction, BlackRock and Oceanwood now hold about 7.5% of NH each, while Henderson’s stake is slightly smaller, according to industry sources. After having strengthened their position, the funds will ask to enter the Board of NH.
This transaction is taking place after funds and minority shareholders expressed their discontent following the NH board’s decision not to fill in the two vacancies on the board with representatives of independent investors after the exit of Intesa Sanpaolo. This situation indirectly reinforces the power of the Chinese conglomerate HNA, leading shareholder with 29.5%, and the four board members. The second leading shareholder, after NHA, is Grupo Inversor Hesperia, with a stake of 9.09% and two representatives on the management body.
Hesperia was instrumental in bringing Santander to NH. The company, led by developer José Antonio Castro, resorted to loans in a frustrated attempt to gain control over NH. Santander, its main creditor, decided to take action against Hesperia defaults and get a stake in NH. In late 2012, it placed Rodrigo Echenique in the presidency and, last December, refinanced the Hesperia debt in exchange for a 8.56% stake in NH.
The divestiture of Santander, which was only a matter of time, brings this phase to an end. It will also lead to a change in the NH presidency in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the company is continuing to improve its figures. Between January and March, the NH revenue, excluding Royal Hotels, rose by 2.3% up to 272.3 million euros, driven by the upturn in Spain and Italy. The net result was negative (29.1 million), but 24.7% better than back in 2014.
Original story: Expansión (by Y.Blanco)
Translation: James Leahu