21 November 2017 – Expansión
To create a hotel colossus with more than 600 hotels and 109,000 rooms in Europe, Latin America and the USA, and one of the largest tourism companies in Spain. With this objective in mind, the Barceló group has initiated contact with the NH Hotel Group to propose one of the largest hotel mega-operations in recent years in Spain.
Barceló is offering a swap equation that involves valuing each NH share at €7.08. In other words, it is willing to pay €2.48 billion for the company in total. That valuation represents a premium of 27% over the group’s average share price during the three months leading up to 30 October, of €5.56. Moreover, that premium rises to 41% if we consider the company’s closing price last Friday of €5.
Yesterday at 12:30, Spain’s National Securities and Exchanges Commission (CNMV) lifted the suspension on trading that had been weighing down on NH’s shares, but the avalanche of purchase orders meant that it took another 45 minutes for the shares to actually start trading again. By the close of business, NH’s list price had soared by 11.8%, to €5.59. In this way, its market capitalisation rose from €1,751 million on Friday to exceed €1,950 million. So far this year, the hotel company has seen its share price rise by more than 46%, however, it is still well below the €14.70 per share that it reached in 2007, at the height of its stock market boom.
Barceló submitted to the CNMV a letter sent by Simón Pedro Barceló, Co-President of Group Barceló, to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of NH, Alfredo Fernández Agras, in which he proposes considering the merger of the two companies. According to the initial proposal, the Mallorca-based firm would end up owning 60% of the merged group. Barceló explains that his interest in this merger stems from “the great strategic sense and the exceptional potential for the creation of value for the shareholders of both companies”.
The letter also opens the door for the merged group’s corporate headquarters to be located in Madrid and it proposes that the maximum governing body of the merged company, in which Grupo Barceló would hold a majority stake, would have sufficient members to ensure that the existing shareholders of NH are represented.
Barceló proposes a merger, in other words, “the integration of Grupo Barceló and NH through the delivery of new shares issued by NH to Grupo Barceló, keeping the company listed”. “Our intention is to integrate all of the assets and liabilities of Grupo Barceló, including our Hotel and Travel divisions, which we believe could contribute value to the combined group. Nevertheless, we are willing to consider different alternatives regarding the perimeter of the assets and liabilities in order to facilitate the success of the transaction”, said Barceló.
Three months to reach an agreement
The offer, which is non-binding and conditional upon a due diligence (detailed analysis) provides for a period of “up to 3 months for the completion of this work, to reach an agreement between the two parties and submit a transaction to our respective governing bodies for definitive approval”. In fact, Barceló said that he is willing to consider alternatives with respect to the perimeter of the operation to facilitate it.
If the proposal ends up going ahead, it would result in the creation of the largest Spanish hotel group, ahead of Meliá, which at the end of 2016, had 375 hotels and 96,369 rooms. It would become one of the largest players in the sector in Europe, behind only the British firm InterContintental and the French company Accor.
Barceló has engaged Santander as financial advisor for the operation and has not hired any legal advisor.
NH views the offer with suspicion
From the get-go, the offer has been viewed with suspicion by NH, which indicated to the CNMV that it had received “an unsolicited, preliminary and non-binding expression of interest” from Barceló for the merger of the two businesses.
According to this offer, Barceló would have “a majority on the administrative board”. Moreover, NH reminded the regulator that its Board of Directors recently approved a 3-year strategic plan “involving an independent project for significant growth, which is still valid today”.
NH’s largest shareholder is the Chinese giant HNA, which holds a 29.5% stake, but it is not represented on the Board of Directors following its expulsion last year due to a conflict of interest. After HNA is the British fund Oceanwood, with a 12% stake; and Hesperia, the chain chaired by José Antonio Castro, with a 9% stake.
Analysts think the merger makes “strategic sense”
Analysts at Renta 4 and Bankinter agree with Barceló that the operation makes “strategic sense”.
Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo and M. L. Verbo)
Translation: Carmel Drake