Shareholder objects to Hochtief stake sale

A major shareholder is objecting to Hochtief's plan to sell a 9.1 per cent stake to Qatar investors.

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A major shareholder is objecting to the German construction giant Hochtief's plan to sell a 9.1 per cent stake in the company to Qatar investors.

Hochtief, based in Frankfurt, said on Monday it would issue 7 million new shares to Qatar Holdings for €450 million (Dh2.18 billion).

Southeastern Asset Management, Hochtief's second-largest shareholder, yesterday accused the company of giving Qatar a €266m discount "in order to gain access to potential projects in that country".

"We do not doubt the attractiveness of the Qatari market long-term, but we are shocked that the ad-hoc committee felt the need to 'pay' a fee to Qatar, using shareholder funds, for the right to bid for future projects," said Southeastern. "We would have thought Hochtief able to bid for these projects on its own merits."

Southeastern, the asset management fund which advises Longleaf Partners Fund, based in Memphis, Tennessee, also owns a 5 per cent stake in the Spanish construction company Actividades de Construccion y Servicios (ACS), which is bidding to buy Hochtief.

In September, ACS offered €2.8bn for Hochtief, a bid rejected by the company. The deal with Qatar Holdings would reduce ACS's shares from 30 per cent to 27.5 per cent.

Under German takeover rules, a 30 per cent stake allows ACS to buy more shares in its hostile takeover attempt.

* with agencies