Roekke’s Aker Solutions Purchase Seen as Signaling Dividend

Billionaire Kjell Inge Roekke’s Aker ASA bought 6 percent of Aker Solutions ASA for 1.9 billion kroner ($312 million) in a move seen as a signal the company will pay a special dividend with the proceeds of asset sales.

Aker bought 16.4 million shares in Aker Solutions at 115 kroner apiece, the company said in a statement today. The purchase comes after Aker Solutions, which closed at 98.9 kroner yesterday, sold its mooring and loading systems unit and its well-intervention services operations for 5.4 billion kroner.

“Aker wants to increase its ownership stake in order to secure board approval, or simply receive a larger share of a special dividend or share buyback program funded by the proceeds,” RS Platou AS analyst Turner Holm said in a note after Aker announced its plans yesterday. “This offer gives us increased confidence that the cash from assets will be returned to shareholders rather than used for big-ticket acquisitions.”

Aker Solutions jumped as much as 15 percent to 113.3 kroner in Oslo, the biggest intraday gain since Feb. 17, 2012, and traded at 104.9 kroner as of 2:05 p.m. Aker advanced 3.2 percent to 212.5 kroner, having earlier risen as much as 3.4 percent.

Aker, in which Roekke owns about two-thirds through his TRH Holding AS unit, now owns a direct stake in Aker Solutions of about 6 percent, it said.

Dividend Forecasts

The billionaire’s holding company had previously held shares in Aker Solutions indirectly through its 70 percent ownership of Aker Kvaerner Holding AS, which owns 40.3 percent of Aker Solutions.

A dividend funded by asset sales is “not an issue for us at this time,” Aker spokesman Atle Kigen said by phone from Oslo. “We’re focused on Aker Solutions’ continued development within its core business areas.” Aker has no plans to buy more shares in the oil services company, he said.

Aker Solutions, which last announced an extraordinary dividend in 2006 after the sale of its pulping and paper unit, made annual payments of 4 kroner for 2012 and 3.9 kroner for 2011. Investors will probably see annual dividends of 3 kroner, 4 kroner and 5 kroner for 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively, according to Bloomberg dividend forecasts.

“Dividends are proposed by the Aker Solutions board and this will be communicated in connection with the fourth-quarter results,” spokeswoman Bunny Nooryani said in an e-mail. The sale proceeds “will among other things be spent on investments in our core activities and repayment of debt.”

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