AN Irish private equity group controlled by Eamon Waters, who sold his Panda Waste business last year for €1.4bn, has become the second biggest shareholder in stock market-listed insurance group FBD.
The scale of the stake and speed at which it has been built-up is certain to raise speculation as to his ultimate strategy as an investor in the company.
Mr Waters’ Dublin-based Sretaw Private Equity has moved rapidly. Regulatory filings on Friday show that it has now boosted the stake in FBD to just over 10pc. It crossed the threshold on Wednesday this week.
Just over a week ago, Sretaw held just over 6pc of FBD Holdings.
It means that Sretaw has spent millions of euros in the space of days acquiring shares in the insurance firm.
It makes Sretaw the second biggest shareholder in the insurance company after Farmer Business Development, a farmer-owned vehicle that owns FBD resorts and hotels and other investments as well as a 24pc stake in the insurance operation, which is FBD Holdings plc.
FBD Holdings has a market capitalisation of just under €500m and is Ireland’s only insurance company that’s listed on the stock market.
Sretaw only started accumulating its holding in FBD in recent months.
Investors don’t have to publicly disclose what their holding in a stock market-listed company is until it edges above 3pc. Thereafter, they must constantly update the market with share acquisitions or disposals until such a time that the holding falls below 3pc again.
Filings with the stock exchange show that Sretaw (Waters spelled backwards, he also had a racehorse by that name) first had a notifiable stake in FBD at the end of July this year, when it reported owning just over 5pc of the insurance group.
It raised the holding to just over 6pc on September 21, and spent millions more buying shares between then and now to increase the holding.
Mr Waters was not immediately contactable for comment.
He sold his Beauparc Utilities business, which controls Panda, in 2021 to Australia’s Macquarie Infrastructure Fund.
Sretaw’s website states: “With Eamon’s unique level of expertise, Sretaw are now seeking to invest in well-run companies with sound business models, robust business integrity and an ability to become the next leader within their industry.”
FBD’s shares were trading down 2.4pc this morning at €10.25. They’re changing hands at about the same level as earlier this year. The previous time they’d been priced above €10 each was in late 2018.
Highclere International Investors held a 5.4pc stake in FBD at the end of last year. By June, Highclere had cut its stake to just over 2.5pc.
Norway’s Protector Forsikring had 8.4pc at the start of the year, but now owns 9.9pc. It had briefly lifted its stake above 10pc earlier this year.
FBD Holdings, whose chief executive is Tomás O’Midheach, made a pre-tax profit of €110m last year. That was a better than expected performance and came even after it had reduced premiums for customers. The profit was more than 20 times as much as it made in 2020. Its gross written premium last year was €366.3m, which was 2.3pc higher than in 2020.