Conwert buys 60 percent stake in KWG

VIENNA Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:13am EST

The logo of Austrian real estate group Conwert is pictured on the front of its headquarters building in Vienna July 1, 2010. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

The logo of Austrian real estate group Conwert is pictured on the front of its headquarters building in Vienna July 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

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VIENNA (Reuters) - Conwert Immobilien (CONW.VI) is to buy 60 percent of German residential property group Kommunale Wohnen (BIWG.DE) from its major shareholder, boosting the Austrian company's German portfolio by two thirds.

Conwert said on Friday it would finance the acquisition of Hamburg-based KWG roughly equally in cash and shares and would soon start a new buyback program for up to 2.5 million shares that will run until the end of March.

While the parties did not disclose financial details of the deal, Conwert's biggest acquisition to date, a source familiar with the situation said the price was in the range of 70-80 million euros ($93-$106 million).

KWG's current market capitalization is 97 million euros.

The seller, the source said, was Karl Ehlerding, a former self-made billionaire who turned a small German firm, WCM, into a property group worth 7 billion euros at its height and which tried to buy Commerzbank (CBKG.DE).

Conwert shares were up 4.2 percent to 9.87 euros by 5:11 a.m. ET, outperforming a flat European real-estate index .SX86P. KWG shares rose 8.7 percent to 6.65 euros.

A spokesman for Conwert said: "We are currently on an expansion course. We are not done yet", adding Conwert had no plans to try to squeeze out KWG's remaining shareholders.

German property is a popular defensive play for European real estate firms amid economic crisis in the euro zone.

German landesbank BayernLB is selling its GBW property unit GWBG.MU and has attracted at least three bidders offering up to 2.5 billion euros who are seeking to team up with insurers and pension funds, sources have told Reuters.

Conwert said part of the purchase price for the deal, which it hopes to complete by the end of January 2013 after receiving cartel authority approval, was dependent on KWG achieving certain targets.

KWG, whose chief executive Stavros Efremidis will join Conwert's executive board in February, said it welcomed the takeover by Conwert which it said was a "strategic partner".

(Editing by Dan Lalor)

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