Italy’s Enel takes 9.99% stake in takeover target Endesa
Italian power supplier Enel entered the fray over Spanish takeover target Endesa on Wednesday, announcing it had bought a 9.99% stake in the company.
Enel could lift this to a 25% stake, the maximum any firm can hold before it is legally obligated to make a takeover bid, c.e.o. Fulvio Conti said in the press. The company officially denied it planned to counter German E.ON’s bid for Endesa.
Enel paid EUR 39.00/share, slightly higher than E.ON’s offer of EUR 38.75/share. E.ON has already raised its bid twice to beat off competition, but issued a terse statement on Wednesday, saying it would continue with its EUR 41 billion bid independently of Enel’s new stake.
Enel is the last in a string of energy players to have bought stakes in Endesa since the takeover battle began in earnest last February, when E.ON trumped a pending bid from Spanish gas incumbent Gas Natural. In September last year Spanish renewables group Acciona unexpectedly upped its share in Endesa to just below the 25% mark, turning it into the largest single shareholder. It has since been a vocal opponent of E.ON’s bid (see ESGM 12.186).
Conti said Enel would have been prepared to side with Gas Natural if the company had wanted to raise its offer for Endesa — a slightly belated announcement, as the Spanish gas incumbent dropped out of the race earlier this year (EDEM 13.023).
European Commission lays low, but stock market regulator wary
The European Commission did not want to be drawn on Enel’s acquisition on Wednesday, saying only that it was up to the market to decide. A spokesman added that companies owned by the state — as Enel partially is — had the same right to launch bids as private companies. The Commission has previously given the green-light to E.ON’s bid and asked Spain to lift a number of conditions on the takeover.
Spanish stock market regulator CNMV, in contrast, appeared more wary. It has asked Enel in an open letter for a series of explanations over its new stake, including whether the company had used political contacts during the deal. It is no secret that the Spanish government prefers Endesa to remain in Spanish hands, having championed Gas Natural’s bid in the face of EU criticism.
The market was buzzing with rumours that Spain and Italy had now entered a pact to muscle out E.ON and lend support to the Spanish shareholders. Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero met his Italian counterpart Romano Prodi earlier this month, and although it is not known whether any energy sector competition was on the agenda, opposition party politicians claim this was the case. If so, the question would be why Madrid would be willing to hand control of Endesa to an Italian company, when it has been so clearly reluctant to let a German company take the reins.
To give a clearer picture of Enel’s plans for Endesa, it should now outline what it intends to do with regards to voting rights during Endesa next shareholders’ meeting, CNMV said in its letter.
Enel, owner of Spain’s fifth-ranking power supplier, Enel Viesgo, is looking to expand its position outside Italy’s borders, the company said in a statement. In the past it has said it is particularly interested in Endesa’s French subsidiary, which recently changed name from Snet to Endesa France. IS
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