Swiss OFI to sell stake in Czech Republic's Agrofert

Author: Mark Andress

2001/02/23

PRAGUE (CNI)--Swiss company OFI, which owns 50% of Czech private agrochemical concern Agrofert, is looking to sell its stake to a strategic investor, Agrofert general director Andrej Babis has told CNI.

In December, OFI reduced its stake from 60% to its current share by selling 10% to Babis, who now directly owns 35% in Agrofert, which has capital participation in 51 different firms worldwide.

Although Babis is not personally involved in the search for an investor, he said: "We set the common strategy to bring into the company a strategic and financially strong investor to support the acquisition strategy of Agrofert.

"Thus I am not interested in acquiring the subject stake. I am happy with my current stake."

Agrofert is looking at takeover opportunities in Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary, said Babis. However, negotiations have not reached a detailed stage, he said. Agrofert is "seriously" looking at acquiring certain Polish chemicals companies, although Babis declined to elaborate. A bid for one will be submitted by the end of February.

Agrofert is involved in the production of pigments, inorganic chemicals and fertilisers. Its most important Czech subsidiaries are Precheza, Precolor, Deza, Lovochemie, Agrobohemie and AGFTrading, which together make up 80% of the group’s turnover. The group made a preliminary Koruna2.8bn ($74m/Euo81m) gross profit in 2000, an increase of Koruna1.5bn on 1999.

Apart from OFI’s and Babis’direct ownership stakes in Agrofert, 5% belongs to Swiss fertiliser trader Ameropa and 10% to Prague-based Agroter, a market research/ advisory/trading company wholly owned by Babis.

OFI’s Lucerne-based representative Rene Kurth could not be reached for comment.