German watchdog checking sales of Hochtief shares: spokesman

5th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The German stock market watchdog BaFin is checking for anomalies in a public offer by Spanish construction group ACS for its German counterpart Hochtief, a BaFin spokesman said on Wednesday.

"We are studying whether any irregularites have been committed," he told AFP without providing details on what was being sought or who had initiated the probe.

On Tuesday, ACS said after months of boardroom drama that it had acquired 30.34 percent of the shares in Hochtief as part of a plan to become Europe's biggest construction company.

That would put ACS in a position to gradually take over Hochtief without paying a customary control premium to shareholders and was in large part the result of a deal done with Southeastern Asset Management.

The US investment fund sold ACS half of a 4.84 percent stake in the German group.

Southeastern also owns six percent of the shares in ACS and German press reports said Hochtief executives suspect possible wrongdoing in connection with the transaction.

Hochtief managers have declined to comment directly on the issue, but finance director Burkhard Lohr told the financial daily Boersenzeitung last week: "It is BaFin's duty to look into the question."

A takeover of debt-free Hochtief would let debt-laden ACS consolidate the German firm's results on its own books.

© 2011 AFP

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