* Shares at 18-month high
* Gates becomes second shareholder after chairwoman
* Concerns over debt restructuring remain
By Sonya Dowsett
MADRID, Oct 22 Shares in Spanish builder FCC
surged 13 percent to an 18-month high on Tuesday after
the company announced late on Monday that Bill Gates, co-founder
of Microsoft, had become its second largest
The debt-laden construction company said after market close
on Monday that Gates had bought 6 percent of the firm for 113.5
million euros ($155 million) at Friday's closing price of 14.9
euros per share.
The purchase is welcome news for the firm, which is fighting
to overhaul its business and return to profit after a
construction and property crash that slashed its share price by
around 80 percent.
Gates's FCC share purchase was splashed across the front
pages of national newspapers on Tuesday and was hailed by some
as a resurgence of interest in Spain, which is expected to
emerge from recession this quarter.
The purchase makes Gates the second biggest shareholder
after chairwoman Esther Koplowitz, one of Spain's wealthiest
individuals and a philanthropist, like Gates.
The shares had jumped 5 percent on Monday before the
announcement, which came after the market closed, and were
leading Spain's blue-chip index in morning trade, up 10 percent
at 17.30 euros at 0950 GMT, off an earlier high at 17.75, while
the IBEX 35 index was largely flat.
"A long-term investment by an investor of the calibre of
Bill Gates is much more important than the short-term effect it
may have upon the shares," chief executive Juan Bejar said in an
interview with Cadena Ser radio.
Analysts cautioned that, although the purchase was positive
for FCC, itsmost pressing issue was negotiations with creditor
banks to refinance around 5 billion euros of debt that falls due
this year and next.
"We continue to be worried about the likely terms of the
refinancing, not only the cost of debt but also for the
guarantees, covenants and debt reduction calendar, as we fear
that banks will leave management little flexibility to create
value for shareholders," said broker Espirito Santo in a
FCC has cut staff, put assets on the block and made heavy
writedowns on bad investments in renewable energy and Austria in
an attempt to turn around its business.
Meanwhile, it has turned its focus onto big construction
concessions, especially abroad, and won a multibillion euro
contract in July to build a metro in the Saudi Arabian capital,