Sweden's Kinnevik to distribute $6.6 billion Zalando stake to shareholders

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish investment firm Kinnevik plans to distribute its stake in German online fashion group Zalando, worth 55 billion crowns ($6.6 billion), to its shareholders.

FILE PHOTO: Zalando packaging from an online delivery is seen discarded in a cardboard box in Galway, Ireland, August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

Kinnevik said on Wednesday the transfer would allow it to focus on younger, unlisted companies and its core investments in online food and digital healthcare and payments companies.

The Swedish firm’s stake of 54 million shares represents 21% of total outstanding shares in Zalando.

Shares in the German online fashion giant, which have doubled in the past year, fell 5.2% in early trade, while Kinnevik’s dropped 3.4%.

Kinnevik’s shares have surged more than 200% from lows in March, with many of its holdings seeing rapid growth in the midst of the pandemic, helped by the portfolio’s focus on digital businesses.

CEO Georgi Ganev said the company would continue to focus on the digital healthcare and food sectors, as he expects them to change substantially in the coming years.

“2021 will be a year in which we’ll continue to support the companies we have invested in. And we will also find perhaps 3-4 new companies,” he told Reuters, adding the pandemic had accelerated digitalisation unexpectedly fast.

“In 3-4 months we have seen things that we thought would take maybe 3-4 years. That is something that caught us by surprise.”

Founded in Berlin in 2008, Zalando has grown rapidly to become Europe’s biggest online-only fashion retailer. Kinnevik first invested in the company in 2010.

The proposal to distribute the Zalando stake will be submitted at Kinnevik’s annual shareholder meeting on April 29, and is expected to be finalised during the second quarter.

The Swedish firm said shareholders representing an aggregate 30% of shares and 50% of votes had expressed support for the distribution and confirmed their intention to back the proposal.

Kinnevik’s shareholders include Sweden’s wealthy Stenbeck family.

($1 = 8.3083 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom and Helena Soderpalm; additional reporting by Emma Thomasson, Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter