UPDATE 1-Czech developer Orco shares sink after bank calls in Zlota loans

Wed Apr 2, 2014 7:54am EDT

* Bank financing Zlota project calls for repayment of loans

* Orco to look at asset sales for needed cash

* Shares fall over 20 pct to record low (Adds shares, analyst, Croatia deal)

By Jason Hovet

PRAGUE, April 2 (Reuters) - Shares in Czech developer Orco Property Group slumped to new lows on Wednesday after the bank financing its Zlota 44 residential block in Warsaw called for the repayment of loans totalling more than $83 million.

The move by the unnamed bank is the latest setback for the central European property developer, which last week posted a record loss, announced the departure of its founder and said its stake in a profitable German subsidiary had dropped below 50 percent.

The stock lost more than 20 percent, touching 19.80 crowns and hitting a fresh all-time low for a sixth straight session.

Orco said it was looking for disposals to raise funds which would allow it to repay the loans - of 170.1 million zlotys ($56.2 million) and 19.6 million euros ($27 million) - connected to the Zlota 44 building and which are due in 30 days.

"(Orco) is putting all in place in order to collect the needed cash in due course mainly by selling the liquid assets," it said in a statement. It gave no more details and a spokesman had no immediate comment about the assets it could sell.

The company had already last week put the unfinished Zlota project up for sale after reporting a full-year loss of 227 million euros, due to charges and writedowns, half of which were caused by the Warsaw building.

Orco has struggled to recover after being hard hit in the global financial crisis of 2008-09. Jean-Francois Ott started the group up in 1991 but is leaving the management and board as part of a shake-up following a shareholder battle.

The company said last week Ott and other departing managers would receive 7.15 million euros in cash as well as property in Prague and Berlin worth 8.40 million.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Czech real estate investor Radovan Vitek bought into the company in 2012 and now holds a 30.7 percent stake, giving him board control. He was quoted as saying in a news agency interview in January that Orco's future was uncertain and liquidation was a possibility.

Vitek has also become the second biggest shareholder in Orco's unit Orco Germany through new share issues. As of March 11, he holds a 27.3 percent stake, while Orco has 45.1 percent in the subsidiary.

The unit, focused on commercial projects in Germany, swung back to profit last year and, with its new cash, made its first acquisition in seven years last month, with plans for more.

Orco Germany said on Wednesday it would buy some debts of Croatian hotels group Suncani Hvar for 24 million euros. The deal makes Orco Germany a major partner in restructuring the company, which is 55 percent owned by Orco Property Group.

The Zlota 44 block, designed by modernist architect Daniel Libeskind, was seen as its flagship project. It is one of the most prominent constructions in the Polish capital and stands near the Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw's tallest building.

But it ran into a succession of problems, including a lack of bank financing after defaulting on certain loan covenants and an unsuccessful sales re-launch on the local residential market.

The group has granted a short-term option on the skyscraper to OTT Properties, a group related to founder Ott, but has provided no details about the option. ($1 = 3.0290 Polish Zlotys) ($1 = 0.7249 Euros) (Editing by David Holmes)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.