PARIS, March 20 (Reuters) - French distilled drinks firm Belvedere has obtained court approval for a debt-for-equity swap that will leave existing shareholders with just 13 percent of the company.
The decision, made public on Wednesday, should mark the end of the five-year-old legal battle between the debt-laden French spirits group and its creditors.
In June 2008 Belvedere filed for court protection from creditors demanding early reimbursement of most of the debt it had issued in 2006 to buy French liqueur firm Marie Brizard.
The plan will see Belvedere’s entire debt of 672 million euros ($866 million) at the end of June 2012 converted into shares, diluting existing shareholders’ stakes to just 13 percent of the company’s share capital.
Shareholders approved the plan in late February after an unruly meeting lasting more than five hours, giving the company a chance to avoid going into liquidation.
Under the plan, Belvedere’s main creditor, Oaktree Capital Management will become its largest shareholder with 38 percent of its capital but with limited voting rights of 19.9 percent. ($1=0.7760 euros) (Reporting by Alice Cannet, Matthieu Protard and Pascale Denis; Editing by Greg Mahlich)