May 17, 2019 / 8:25 AM / a year ago

Russian tycoon wins control of Spain's DIA as financing deadline looms

MADRID (Reuters) - Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman’s investment fund LetterOne (L1)has won control of Spanish retailer DIA but has not yet secured support from all of the loss-making group’s creditors with three days to go before a financing deadline.

FILE PHOTO: People walk outside a DIA supermarket in central Madrid, Spain, February 23, 2015. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

DIA’s inability to compete with domestic and foreign rivals, who invest heavily in their stores, has hit the company’s market share and put it at risk of having to declare insolvency.

L1’s bid, launched in February, to buy the roughly 70% of DIA it did not already own has been accepted by holders of 40.76% of the group’s shares, according to a final calculation by the market regulator, giving L1 a 69.76% stake.

L1 said it had reached agreement in principle to prop up DIA’s capital with 16 of its 17 lenders, which hold 77.5% of its 912 million euro syndicated bank debt.

But all of DIA’s creditors need to agree a refinancing plan by May 20 to pave the way for a planned 500 million euro ($558 million) capital raising to remedy its negative equity position.

Creditors led by Spanish bank Santander are being asked to extend debt agreements until 2023 and set up new credit lines for 170 million euros. DIA also needs cash to help to honour its 1.7 billion euros in debt.

Failure to convince the holdout bank, which L1 did not name, could stymie the plan. L1 said in its takeover bid prospectus it would consider using its own funds through a shareholder loan if fellow shareholders backed its bid but it did not repeat this on Friday.

DIA’s shares rose 3 percent in early trading but fell back and were trading 3 percent lower on the day after the final shareholder acceptance was published. Its short-term debt costs increased, with the yield on bonds maturing in July 2019 climbing 3.64%.

L1 had faced resistance from some shareholders to its bid, launched on Feb 5, to buy the rest of DIA for 0.67 euros per share and in response extended the acceptance deadline and reduced the minimum acceptance level, before scrapping that condition altogether..

DIA had reported a first quarter loss on Tuesday as sales fell.

L1 has criticised DIA’s management and touted its team’s experience in retail, including its purchase of British health food chain Holland & Barrett in 2017.

DIA has proposed its own turnaround plan, saying it could improve core earnings as early as next year by focusing on its own-label goods, offering more fresh produce and promotions, and cutting about 1,500 jobs.

L1 had said early on Friday its offer had been accepted by holders of 29.36% of DIA’s shares, giving L1 a 58.36% stake, as of midnight on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by Susan Fenton/Edmund Blair/Jane Merriman

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