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UPDATE 1-Unipetrol shareholder to take legal action over Spolana acquisition
March 22, 2017 / 5:37 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Unipetrol shareholder to take legal action over Spolana acquisition

(Adds more shareholder comment, Unipetrol strategy details)

PRAGUE, March 22 (Reuters) - Czech downstream oil group Unipetrol’s biggest minority shareholder said it will take legal action against the company’s acquisition of chemicals company Spolana.

Unipetrol acquired Czech-based Spolana from its Polish parent PKN Orlen last year, but the move was opposed by Unipetrol’s minority shareholders who said they feared having to pay for needed investments. PKN is also Unipetrol’s biggest shareholder.

“We consider the purchase of Spolana to be strongly disadvantageous, burdening the (Unipetrol) group with unproductive future CAPEX (capital expenditure),” Pavel Muchna, who represents Paulinino Limited - which has a 20 percent stake in Unipetrol - said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We will defend ourselves against this transaction through the court, against current and former board members, as well as majority shareholder PKN Orlen.”

Unipetrol had no immediate comment.

Paulinino, part of Czech-Slovak investment group J&T, has long pushed for Unipetrol to increase its dividend, which Unipetrol began paying again last year for the first time in nine years.

Last week Unipetrol set out plans to systematically raise its dividend per share ratio, as part of a new corporate strategy, but said payments would be dependent on financial stability. It also said it would increase the dividend this year from the 5.52 crowns per share approved last year.

However, Paulinino, in its statement, said the dividend strategy was insufficient given that Unipetrol was debt free and overcapitalised.

Paulinino also criticised Unipetrol’s profit outlook for not including expected income from insurance payments of up to 7.3 billion Czech crowns ($292 million) from a fire that knocked its steam cracker out for more than a year, and for another unrelated incident.

It also said it would continue to push Unipetrol to be more specific over its investment plans.

Unipetrol’s new strategy targets earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of a combined 19.7 billion crowns in 2017-18 as well as investment spending of 16.3 billion crowns.

However, analysts and investors said the plan lacked details.

Unipetrol has also said it would complete a new polyethylene unit (PE3) but has not detailed its planned investment in Spolana.

Unipetrol shares closed flat on Wednesday at 223.90 crowns and have gained 25 percent in the past year. ($1 = 24.9900 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Jan Lopatka and Susan Fenton)

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