By Angelos Anastasiou
THE Bank of Cyprus has embarked on a series of roadshows to potential investors, while minority shareholders were blocked out of the upcoming capital increase, according to local press reports.
On the heels of last week’s board decision to comply with the wishes of Central Bank of Cyprus governor Chrystalla Georghadji and proceed with a capital increase of at least €1bn by early August with a maximum clawback of 20 per cent, the Bank of Cyprus has commissioned four banks – HSBC, Credit Suisse, VTB and Deutsche Bank – to contact potential investors on its behalf.
The roadshows were kicked off in London on Tuesday, and presentations are scheduled by BoC senior officials to small groups of interested investors.
Next week, the lender plans to move the roadshows to the US, while the prospect of including other major financial centres has not been ruled out.
The BoC has good reason to hope that it can clear the €1bn benchmark set by Georghadji, as indicated by foreign investor interest.
The order book will be open from July 18 to 25 for existing and new shareholders. Subsequently, early in August, existing shareholders will be allowed to claw back on the dilution their stakes will suffer to the tune of 20 per cent of the capital raised.
It is estimated that, given a €1bn issue is exhausted, if existing shareholders exercise their full clawback rights at 20 per cent, their stakes in the bank will be diluted by a further 25 per cent.
Meanwhile, minority shareholders have been ignored in the planned capital increase.
Reports appeared yesterday suggesting this form of shareholder oppression. According to the business website Stockwatch, the BoC board decided to allow participation in the capital increase only to shareholders whose holdings in the bank exceed €100,000, so that the time-consuming preparation and issuance of an informative bulletin can be avoided.
Instead, the board issued only an information memorandum, which is directed at institutional investors and hedge funds.
More than 80 per cent of the bank’s equity is held by approximately 21,000 shareholders whose uninsured deposits were converted to share capital last summer.
But outcry over the decision to exclude minority shareholders may well lead the board to revisit the issue, considering the addition of a third step after the clawback phase, in which minority shareholders will also be allowed to invest in the capital increase.
Upon completion of the proposed €1bn capital issue, it is expected that the bank’s capital buffers will reach 14.6 per cent, creating a comfortable cushion against losses ahead of the European Central Bank’s rigorous stress testing this fall.