Offshore fund acquires 9.7 pct of Bank of Cyprus

NICOSIA, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Bank of Cyprus BOC.CYBOCr.AT said on Tuesday Odella Resources of the British Virgin Islands had raised its stake in the bank to 9.7 percent by acquiring shares from the bank's employee pension funds and on the market.

Odella Resources had acquired 7.50 percent of Bank of Cyprus from the bank’s employee provident (pension) funds at 4.90 euros per share. It had also acquired a smaller amount of shares on the Athens and Cyprus stock exchanges at an average price of 4.066 euros, bringing its acquisition on Tuesday to 7.57 percent, Bank of Cyprus said in a statement.

Odella Resources is a British Virgin Island company belonging to a Cypriot trust with foreign interests, Bank of Cyprus said. The Cypriot bank is the largest in Cyprus, with a presence in Greece and an expanding presence in eastern Europe and Russia.

“The new shareholders who have no other banking-related interest have expressed their confidence in the prospects of the bank,” Bank of Cyprus said in a news release.

There was no further information regarding the identity of Odella Resources.

Bank of Cyprus said the pension funds made the sale in order to comply with newly enforced Cypriot law. That law dictates that employees’ pension funds cannot hold more than 5.0 percent of a company that they have a direct interest in.

The bank said it had been notified the provident funds had also entered into an agreement to sell 29,400,000 nil-paid rights to Odella Resources at an average price of 0.8286 euros per right, which would correspond to 8,400,000 new shares upon their exercise.

With Tuesday’s transaction with Odella Resources, the bank’s employee provident funds had reduced their shareholding from 7.6 percent to 0.1 percent, Bank of Cyprus said. (Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Greg Mahlich)