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Billionaire Koplowitz Said to Work With Messier on Debt Deal

Spanish Billionaire Esther Koplowitz
Spanish billionaire Esther Koplowitz raised her stake in the company in 2004 and increased her holding in B-1998 in 2008 and 2010. Source: OFF/AFG via Getty Images

Spanish billionaire Esther Koplowitz asked Jean-Marie Messier to advise on reorganizing debt tied to her controlling stake in Spanish builder FCC, people familiar with the matter said.

Messier Maris & Associes, the firm of the former Vivendi SA chief executive officer, is helping Koplowitz’s investment company B-1998 SL negotiate new terms for loans used to build a majority stake in FCC, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations are private. FCC drew investor attention last month after Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates bought a 5.7 percent stake in the construction company.

Koplowitz, who is worth more than $1 billion, is reorganizing about 800 million euros ($1.1 billion) of debt, 60 percent of which is owned by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA and 40 percent by Bankia SA, three of the people said. FCC, as Fomento de Construcciones & Contratas SA is known, is seeking to refinance about 5 billion euros of its own loans. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is providing legal advice to B-1998, one of the people said.

Morgan Stanley is advising FCC on those negotiations, three people familiar with the matter said.

The builder has a market value of about 2 billion euros. Koplowitz owned 89.7 percent of B-1998, an investment company with a 53.8 percent stake in FCC, according to the construction company’s 2012 annual report. She has no plans to change the level of her majority stake, one of the people said.

Controlling Stake

Representatives for B-1998, FCC, Messier, Morgan Stanley, BBVA and Bankia declined to comment on Koplowitz’s debt reorganization. A spokesman at Weil, Gotshal & Manges couldn’t immediately comment when contacted by Bloomberg News today.

Esther Koplowitz raised her stake in the company in 2004 and increased her holding in B-1998 in 2008 and 2010. Vivendi has owned a stake in FCC, and Messier previously served as a board member of the construction company.

The Spanish builder stopped paying dividends this year. FCC had a net loss of 674.9 million euros in the first nine months of 2013 compared to profit in the year-earlier period. Analysts expect the company to earn 44.8 million euros next year, according to the average of eight estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

FCC wants its banks to agree to convert part of its loans into payment-in-kind debt, which allow borrowers to roll up interest so that it’s paid when the debt comes due, people familiar with the matter said last month. FCC’s lenders are pushing for the company to reduce its debt and bolster equity through selling assets or retaining profit, the people said.

The stock fell 3.7 percent to 15.30 euros. It has gained 73 percent in the past year, though it’s trading at a fifth of the level of its 2007 peak.

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