BRUSSELS Belgium's Ackermans & Van Haaren (ACKB.BR) will acquire a majority stake in construction group CFE (CFEB.BR) by buying shares from France's Vinci (SGEF.PA), the groups said on Thursday.
As a result of several transactions jointly worth 680 million euros ($921 million), holding group Ackermans, which currently does not have any shares in CFE, will end up with 60.39 percent of the Belgian construction group and Vinci will keep a 12.1 percent stake.
By having a majority stake in CFE, Ackermans will gain greater control over dredger DEME, a prized asset with an order book of close to 3 billion euros, that both companies now own jointly.
For Vinci, which so far has had a 46.8 percent stake in CFE, the deal will mean a lower exposure to a company that has struggled to keep its other businesses profitable as the European construction industry faces economic headwinds.
By Belgian law, Ackermans will now have to make a full bid for CFE and will do so at 45 euros per share, just above Thursday's closing price of 43.15 euros, but a spokesman said taking full control of CFE was not the group's intention.
"We hope other shareholders will trust us in this project and remain with us," a spokesman said.
Analysts said Ackermans' intention not to take over the whole company was also made clear because Vinci would remain a minority shareholder.
"Vinci is on many levels a strategic partner for Ackermans and the 12 percent they will end up holding is a sustainable level," KBC Securities analyst Jan De Vleeschauwer said.
In a complex transaction, Vinci will sell half of its 46.8 percent stake in CFE to Ackermans for 45 euros per share, or about 135 million euros.
Ackermans will then sell its 50 percent stake in DEME to CFE in exchange for about 550 million euros ($745 million) of newly issued CFE shares, further diluting Vinci's stake to 12.1 percent.
DEME, which is involved in projects such as the construction of ports and offshore windfarms, saw its net profit increase by a quarter in the first half of 2013.
($1 = 0.7384 euros)
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Anthony Barker)