A consortium led by US private equity groups Cerberus and J.C. Flowers is buying German state-owned lender HSH Nordbank for €1bn in cash.
“We achieved a good outcome and a price which, compared to previous expectations, is nothing to sneeze at,” Olaf Scholz, the mayor of Hamburg, told journalists at a press conference in Kiel. The bank will be sold in one piece, with no risks remaining to HSH’s current owners, the states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.
The European Commission had set a deadline of February 28 for the bank to be sold or wound down.
Cerberus will hold a 40.3 per cent stake while J.C. Flowers, which already owns 5.1 per cent of HSH, will acquire 33.2 per cent. Smaller stakes will be held by US asset manager GoldenTree Asset Management (11.9 per cent) and Centaurus Capital (7.1 per cent). Austrian lender Bawag, which counts Cerberus as its biggest shareholder, is acquiring a 2.4 per cent stake.
Mr Scholz stressed that the new owners will be able to lead the bank into a healthy future. The sale still hinges on the approval of the European Commission and the ECB. They will only approve the deal if they are convinced HSH has a viable business model.
HSH Nordbank is the first German Landesbank – lenders which are part-owned by German states and the local savings banks - to be privatised. The Hamburg-based lender expanded aggressively between 2003 and 2008 to become the world’s biggest shipping lender. It was one of the worst casualties of the financial crisis and was rescued by taxpayers in a €13bn bailout in 2009.
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