LISBON Dec 20 Portugal's largest shipping
company, Grupo ETE, is preparing to open up its capital to
outside investors and is studying the possibility of an initial
public offering as it seeks to speed up expansion in Latin
America, CEO Luis Nagy told Reuters.
Family-owned ETE, which was set up 80 years ago, focuses on
river transport and is the sector leader in the Iberian
Peninsula. It already operates in Colombia and Uruguay.
"We could take a financial partner who would want to invest,
and there are funds that are very interested in all things
infrastructure ... another option could be a business partner
seeking to diversify its activities to new areas, be it Portugal
or Latina America. We are open to both hypotheses," Nagy said.
He said an initial public offering could also go ahead, in
Portugal or elsewhere.
"It's unlikely to happen in 2017, but it could happen. We
are ready for this. It could be in Portugal if the market
becomes more active," he said, adding that the recent creation
of subholdings for ports or maritime shipping within the firm
was designed to help attract investors.
"There are foreign firms that might be interested in the
whole group and there may be those interested only in port
operations or sea shipping," he said.
The additional capital is chiefly needed to reach the
company's goal of doubling or tripling the volume of its
overseas business, which now accounts for 10 percent of EBITDA.
There are new business opportunities in Uruguay, Paraguay
and especially Colombia that could involve acquisitions of local
firms, Nagy said.
In Portugal, ETE transports cement for Cimpor and
clinker and coal for EDP-Energias de Portugal. In
Uruguay it transports timber to supply the world's largest pulp
plant operated by Stora Enso, while in Colombia it
ships road construction materials by river.
ETE, which also has a naval engineering unit, had a net
profit of 11 million euros last year on a turnover of 195
million euros and EBITDA of 34 million. It has a net debt of
just over 100 million euros.
(Writing by Andrei Khalip, editing by David Evans)