Investment companies controlling 31 percent of the shares of Gecina SA (GFC), Paris’s largest publicly traded office landlord, filed for creditor protection in Spain. Gecina shares fell as much as 6 percent in Paris.
Alteco Gestion & Promocio de Marcas SL, owned by former Gecina Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joaquin Rivero, sought protection from creditors on Sept. 25 and the case will be heard by a Madrid mercantile court, a court official said. A petition filed the same day by MAG Import SL, owned by Victoria Soler and her husband, will be overseen by a separate mercantile court in the Spanish capital, said the official.
Rivero and the Soler family are two of Gecina’s three largest shareholders, with a 16 percent stake and a 15 percent stake in the Paris-based company, respectively. They confirmed the filings in a joint statement e-mailed today, adding that the filing was triggered by one lender in its group of banks blocking a loan refinancing.
The shares were collateral for 2.16 billion euros ($2.8 billion) of loans provided by 13 European banks, 25 percent of which have been paid back, Rivero and the Soler family said in the statement. Gecina said in a statement that its board is reviewing the matter.
As the largest lender in the bank syndicate, Natixis SA, the investment-banking unit of Groupe BPCE, led the banks’ negotiations. Natixis’s exposure is “largely covered,” Paris- based spokeswoman Corinne Lavaud said by telephone, declining to be more specific.
Gecina fell 3.73 euros, or 4.6 percent, to 76.98 euros in Paris, lowering the company’s market value to about 4.8 billion euros.
Rivero’s shares are frozen pending an investigation started in April 2009 by French magistrate Renaud van Ruymbeke into allegations including the misuse of Gecina’s assets, according to two people familiar with the matter who declined to be identified because the information is private.
Olivier Metzner, Rivero’s lawyer in Paris, didn’t return a telephone call seeking comment.
Rivero resigned from Gecina’s board in March. He also stepped down as chairman in February 2010 after shareholders opposed Gecina’s purchase of a 49 percent stake in Madrid office company Bami, owned by him and the Soler family, for 107.8 million euros. The transaction triggered a complaint by minority shareholders that led to the French magistrate’s investigation.
Gecina made a 9.4 million-euro provision in its 2011 accounts to cover additional loan guarantees for Bami that Rivero had put in place, Gecina Chief Executive Officer Bernard Michel said in an interview with French financial daily Les Echos. Previously, Rivero didn’t disclose other loan guarantees Gecina made to Bami.
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