Friday 15 December 2017

Ardagh sells €43m stake in listed Chinese group

Paul Coulson: €1bn stake
Paul Coulson: €1bn stake
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Billionaire Paul Coulson's swashbuckling Ardagh has sold its €43m stake in listed Chinese industrial group ORG at a major profit.

The €3bn-valued Ardagh had acquired the stake in the listed metal packaging maker as part of the €1.7bn deal to buy rival group Impress in 2010. Sources said that Ardagh viewed the ORG shares as "non core" and that it had a policy of not holding minority stakes in companies. A "lock in" agreement, where it was restricted from selling the shares, expired recently.

The stake had been valued at €33.2m in Ardagh's books.

Ardagh is set to use the proceeds of the ORG disposal to help fund part of its "Special Investment Projects" strategy. The glass and tin-can bottler is ratchetting up its organic growth plans, with a $300m programme to boost sales in the UK and US. These two "material projects" are designed to give Ardagh a steady and definable revenue and profit stream over the next 10 years.

Ardagh's focus in coming weeks is on securing a positive outcome from its negotiations with the US Federal Trade Commission over its buyout of St Gobain's Verallia business. The FTC nixxed Ardagh's €1.2bn takeover of Verallia over competition fears, threatening to derail Coulson's plans to float the company.

Coulson had planned to IPO Ardagh on US stockmarkets this year following a series of lightning acquisitions to bulk up the glass company. However, the FTC probe has delayed those plans. Last September, Ardagh announced that it was shelving a planned $500m fundraiser to finance it until the IPO.

Ardagh has made a number of proposals to the FTC, suggesting that it may sell off some US assets to a third party in a bid to boost competition. A positive ruling is crucial for Coulson and his team as the company is facing refinancing deadlines in January.

Coulson owns around 37 per cent of Ardagh, valuing his stake at close to €1bn, with chief executive Niall Wall's 9.5 per cent stake worth close to €290m. Ardagh's IPO will be the biggest flotation of an Irish company since Smurfit Kappa listed in 2007.

Sunday Independent

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