Czech investor J&T consolidates Unipetrol stakes in push for influence

PRAGUE, March 28 Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:06am EDT

PRAGUE, March 28 (Reuters) - Investment group J&T has merged its stake in Unipetrol with those of various clients, making them the second-biggest shareholder in the Czech downstream oil group with more influence to push for supervisory board seats and a dividend payment.

A J&T spokeswoman said the group had created a new company, Paulinino Limited, to manage the combined 23.7 percent stake, confirming a report in financial daily Hospodarske Noviny on Friday.

"We are trying to get shareholder rights at the general meeting, with a goal of getting to the supervisory board and being able to better control what is happening in Unipetrol," spokeswoman Monika Vesela said.

Poland's PKN Orlen is the majority owner of Unipetrol with a 63 percent stake.

J&T, a Czech banking and private equity group, laid out plans in January to combine its 8.35 percent share with various holdings of clients to boost its negotiating power with Unipetrol and push it to pay a dividend.

Unipetrol holds 6 billion crowns in retained earnings, according to its 2013 annual reports. It has not paid a dividend since it distributed 17.65 crowns per share from its 2007 profits, a total payout of 3.2 billion crowns ($160.5 million).

The company has struggled with weak refining margins due to overcapacity in Europe and posted a third straight annual net loss in 2013, of 1.4 billion crowns.

Shares in Unipetrol were little changed on Friday.

($1 = 19.9421 Czech Crowns) (Reporting by Jan Strouhal; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Pravin Char)

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