Business Irish

Sunday 17 December 2017

Big Smurfit Kappa investors offload shares

Gary McGann, CEO of Smurfit Kappa Group. Photo: Mark Condren
Gary McGann, CEO of Smurfit Kappa Group. Photo: Mark Condren
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

TRILLION-dollar investment behemoth Capital Group has almost halved its stake in Gary McGann's cardboard company Smurfit Kappa, offloading €135m worth of shares last week. It still owns a 3.89 per cent stake worth about €165m.

Capital is one of the biggest single investors in the Irish stock market, holding billions of euros in Irish companies ranging from CRH, Bank of Ireland, Paddy Power and Ryanair. It also recently trimmed its stake in Bank of Ireland.

The giant investment group has seen the value of its Irish equities rocket as the Iseq bounced back over the last 18 months.

The sale by Capital was one of two major disposals of Smurfit stock by big investors last week. Growth Fund of America has also almost halved its stake in Smurfit, offloading nearly €90m worth of shares in the past week. It still retains shares worth about €120m.

The sale by Capital means that Norway's massive sovereign wealth funds, managed by Norges Bank, is now the largest single investor in the €4.2bn-valued stock market firm. Bloomberg data indicates that Norges Bank now holds an 8.7 per cent stake in the firm, chaired by former CRH boss Liam O'Mahony.

"Both holdings have been reduced. Obviously, there are plenty of buyers for the stock as the share price went up," according to a source close to the company.

Smurfit's share price has almost doubled in the last year. The company's shares are almost back at pre-crash levels. Last week, Smurfit nosed towards €19 per share, having traded at just over €1 in October 2008, during the peak of the economic crisis.

Smurfit is one of the leading producers of paper-based packaging in the world, with around 41,000 employees in approximately 350 production sites across 32 countries and with sales revenue of €7.3bn in 2012.

Former Anglo Irish Bank director McGann was last week chosen as the RISI European CEO of the Year 2014.

"Last year, Smurfit Kappa Group delivered as a business on a number of bases, including improved profitability, the successful integration of acquisitions and the delivery of significant value for shareholders," according to RISI, a US-based forest products information provider.

Irish Independent

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