UPDATE 1-Stock Spirits' top shareholder exits, shares fall

Tue Apr 8, 2014 5:42am EDT

(Adds details, background, analyst comments)

By Esha Vaish

April 8 (Reuters) - Stock Spirits Group's bookrunner said the company's biggest shareholder, Oaktree Capital Management, has sold its 36.8 percent stake in the largest vodka producer in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The private equity firm exited recently-listed Stock Spirits through a placing of 72.67 million shares at 275 pence per share, JP Morgan Securities Plc said on Tuesday.

The price was at an 11 percent discount to the Stock Spirits' Monday close on the London Stock Exchange.

Shares in the company, which makes the high-end Polish vodka Czysta de Luxe, fell to 275.25 on Tuesday morning and were among the top percentage losers on the exchange.

The placement was widely expected, but came a bit in advance, Wood & Co Financial Services analyst Erik Hegedus told Reuters. "I think they broke the lock-up agreement by some two weeks."

Oaktree Capital and some managers of Stock Spirit sold 55 percent stake in the company at 235 pence during its London listing last October.

The private equity firm said last week joint-bookrunners JP Morgan Cazenove and Nomura had waived the lock-up period agreed upon during the initial public offering. The lock-up was due to expire on April 22.

Oaktree had tried to sell Stock Spirit in 2011 and pursued a possible deal with the world's biggest spirits group Diageo Plc .

Stock Spirits was formed in 2007 when Oaktree merged Czech Republic-based Eckes & Stock with Poland's largest spirit company Polmos Lublin, creating one of the biggest vodka makers in eastern Europe.

"The positive thing is it makes the shares more liquid. It takes away the question of people saying what they (Oaktree) are going to do with their stake", Chris Wickham of Oriel Securities told Reuters.

Shares in Stock Spirit were down 8 percent at 282.50 pence at 0940 GMT.

The company's Prague-traded shares were down 6.6 percent at 96.25 Czech crowns. (Additional reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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