IFM falls short of Naturgy target, securing 10.83% stake for $2.7 bln


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MADRID — Australian fund IFM said on Thursday it had secured a 10.83% holding in Spanish energy group Naturgy for 2.32 billion euros ($2.69 billion) in a tender offer, less than half of what it had initially sought to buy.

IFM, which launched a partial takeover offer last month to acquire a 22.69% stake for 22.07 euros a share or around 4.9 billion euros, said it had waived its 17% acceptance threshold.

Although its bid was subject to securing at least 17% of Naturgy, IFM had also said it could decide to lower the minimum threshold to 10%.

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Naturgy shares were briefly suspended by the stock market supervisor and rose 6% to 24.48 euros when trading resumed.

Securing the 22.69% stake initially planned or even the 17% threshold had become a difficult task after the three main shareholders in Naturgy, which hold more than a combined 67% of the energy group, had said they would not tender their shares.

IFM had originally offered 23 euros a share in January.

Taking into account stakes held by some board members, treasury stock and a 3.85% stake held by Algeria’s state-owned oil company Sonatrach, which is aligned with the board’s assessment, more than 70% of Naturgy’s shareholders would not sell, a source with knowledge of the matter said in September.

Beside Criteria, the main shareholder of Caixabank and holder of more than 26.7% of Naturgy, its main shareholders are private equity funds CVC and GIP, with stakes of 20.7% and 20.64%, respectively.

Criteria is owned by the foundation of former savings bank La Caixa. ($1 = 0.8618 euros) (Reporting by Inti Landauro and Jesus Aguado; Editing by Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)