El Corte Inglés buys half of its shares from the Qatari investor

The president of El Corte Inglés, Marta Álvarez. / CR

Sheikh Al Thani's company, Primefin, had an 11% stake in the company, which he accessed in 2015

Jose Maria Waiter

It was one of the great business operations after the previous economic crisis: the entry of a foreign investor into the shareholding of El Corte Inglés. It happened in 2015. And now, seven years later, the company and that shareholder, the Qatar Primefin fund, have reached an agreement by which Sheikh Al Thani, its owner, reduces his stake in the group of large companies by half. Spanish warehouses.

El Corte Inglés and its shareholder Primefin announced this Tuesday this operation that means that the Qatari investor now has 5.5% of the corporation, compared to just over 11% of the share capital that it held until now.

The agreement reached between the parties involves valuing El Corte Inglés at around 7,000 million euros, in line with the latest corporate operations carried out, such as that of the Mutua Group, and also recognizes Primefin's contractual rights. The repurchase of Primefin shares, from the loan made in the past, "is part of the financial optimization of the company," according to the group in a statement.

The operation has been carried out without an increase in debt and with its own resources, at a time when El Corte Inglés has strengthened its financial situation with the lowest level of debt in the last 15 years. With that 5.5% acquired from the Qatari investor, the company intends to strengthen its treasury stock.

At the beginning of June, Grupo Mutua Madrileña and El Corte Inglés closed their strategic alliance. The agreement has involved the purchase and sale of the insurance business of El Corte Inglés, which includes 50.01% of each of the two companies that carry out said activity: SECI and CESS, and the entry by Mutua into the shareholding of El English court. The operation, agreed and announced last October 2021, involves the payment of 550 million for the insurance business and 555 million for the 8% stake in the capital of El Corte Inglés.

After these two movements, the shareholding of El Corte Inglés is distributed as follows: the Ramón Areces Foundation holds just over 40% of the share capital; behind is the company IASA, with 18.4%; Cesarar (Areces family), 9.6%; Mancor Portfolio (Garcia Miranda family), with 8.04%; Mutua Madrileña Group, with 8%. In treasury stock they will have 5.6%; Primefin, 5.5%; and the rest, distributed among small shareholders and group workers.

Al Thani accessed the share capital of El Corte Inglés in the summer of 2015. Then he acquired 10% of the capital for around 1,000 million euros. That is, then, the company was valued at 10,000 million euros. The investor got a chair on the board of directors, not without numerous suspicions among the group's historic shareholders, belonging to different families, who refused to accept that operation.

It was a first step to open the company to the market and limit the intervention of families in management. The Areces, with 9% (Ceslar), opposed the fund and the forms of the operation and were dismissed from the council - their representative was Carlota Areces - initiating a long legal battle against the then president, Dimas Gimeno. The conflict ended with Gimeno out of the presidency, which is now held by one of the daughters of the group's historic executive, Marta Álvarez.

Thanks to this operation, the Mutua Group will become the exclusive provider for El Corte Inglés of insurance and savings products as of June 1. The current portfolio, therefore, remains unchanged and under the same conditions. CESS, the former insurance broker of the department store group, becomes an insurance agency linked to Mutua Madrileña to market the alliance's products.

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