(Adds final 2013 results, background)
By Francesca Landini
MILAN, March 6 Italian cement maker Italcementi said on Thursday its board had approved the launch of a rights issue worth up to 450 million euros ($623 million) as part of a wider plan to boost its capital base and streamline the company's structure.
The plan envisages also a mandatory conversion of saving shares into ordinary ones and the launch of a takeover bid for its French unit Ciments Francais, the company said in a statement.
Italcementi, the fifth largest cement producer in the world with activities in 22 countries, said these moves are the final step of a restructuring path necessary to cope with the recession in Italy and economic crisis in the rest of Europe.
Last year the cement maker had halted production at three of its Italian plants, bringing the facilities operating in its home country to eight, down from 17 it had in mid-2012.
The company said the capital increase will start in June and is finalised at drawing financial resources for the takeover bid on the French unit, which would then be delisted from the Paris stock exchange.
Italcementi currently owns a 83 percent of the French unit's share capital and will launch its bid at 78 euros per share, which implies a 19 percent premium to the French company's closing price on Wednesday.
Italcementi's shareholder Efiparind will maintain a controlling stake in the group following the capital increase, the company said.
Under the mandatory conversion, each saving share will be converted into 0.65 ordinary shares.
Separately the group, which last month reported a 5.4 percent drop in 2013 sales to 4.24 billion, said it expected revenues to remain stable this year helped by exports.
It posted a net loss of 88.4 million euros last year, in rebound from a negative result of 361.7 million euro in 2012, and said it would pay a dividend of 0.06 euros per share.
($1 = 0.7225 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini, editing by Danilo Masoni and William Hardy)