Imperial Tobacco Said to Weigh Sale of Stake in Logista Unit

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Imperial Tobacco Group Plc is considering selling an additional stake in its Spanish logistics unit, which has outperformed all key European indexes since its initial public offering last year, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Imperial Tobacco, which owns about 70 percent of Cia. de Distribucion Integral Logista Holdings SA, may reduce its holding to just over 50 percent via a sale to institutions, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public. The company could also seek a buyer for the entire stake, two of the people said, adding that no final decision has been made.

Proceeds from the potential divestment would help Bristol, England-based Imperial cut debt following its acquisition of four cigarette brands from Reynolds American Inc., Erik Bloomquist, an analyst at Berenberg, said by e-mail.

“From an investor perspective, selling down Logista would reinforce management’s commitment to further focus the business,” Bloomquist said.

Spokesmen for Imperial and Logista declined to comment.

Imperial shares gained 1 percent to 3,305 pence at the close of trading in London. Logista was little changed at 18.50 euros in Madrid.

Shares in Logista have climbed about 42 percent since the company’s IPO, giving it a market value of about 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion). Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. worked on the IPO.

Investors are returning to Spanish markets amid growing confidence in an economic recovery after its worst crisis in decades. Companies have raised about $29 billion from IPOs and share sales on the country’s exchanges this year, the most in more than 20 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Logista, which distributes goods to outlets such as bookshops, gas stations and convenience stores across southern Europe, said in May that economic sales, or revenue minus the value of products, fell 3.5 percent to 494 million euros for the first half of the year amid a decline in tobacco volumes. Net income rose 16 percent to 47 million euros.

Imperial Tobacco in May won approval from U.S. regulators for its acquisition of cigarette brands from Reynolds American, as part of the antitrust conditions of Reynold’s acquisition of Lorillard Inc.

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