Mid Europa Partners Buys Waberer’s After Budapest IPO Setbacks

  • Private equity firm raises stake to 97.1% from 56.8%
  • CEO-Founder Gyorgy Waberer to resign from all positions

Private equity firm Mid Europa Partners agreed to acquire Waberer’s International Nyrt. from its founder, damping any speculation that the Hungarian hauler may proceed soon with a share sale that was postponed last year.

Mid Europa Partners will increase its holdings in the Budapest-based company to 97.1 percent from 56.8 percent after buying the stake of Chief Executive Officer Gyorgy Waberer, according to an e-mailed statement Wednesday. Deputy CEO Ferenc Lajko will take over from Waberer, who will resign from all positions. Mid Europa Partners declined to immediately comment on the stock exchange listing or on the financial details of the transaction.

The deal may be a setback for the National Bank of Hungary’s plans to revive the bourse it acquired last year as Waberer’s had been slated to become one of the first major listing in at least six years. The hauler, one of Europe’s largest with about 3,500 trucks and 6,000 employees, postponed a share sale in November citing unfavorable market conditions.

"The probability of a listing in the near future is now low, even if the transaction doesn’t rule one out in the longer run," said Daniel Tunkli, an analyst at Concorde Securities, Hungary’s largest brokerage. "It looks like a strategic investment from Mid Europa Partners, who will now have complete control of the company and will look to revive the level of profitability seen a few years earlier."

Company Delistings

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is looking to boost the bourse’s role in an economy that contracted for the first time in four years in the first quarter, hit by a slowdown in European Union-funded investments and by subdued lending. The Budapest Stock Exchange hasn’t seen a company listed in 19 months, with five exits since the beginning of 2015.

The departures included a chemicals maker, a hotel chain and an IT company, with two more delistings already planned for 2016, including food company Norbi Update Lowcarb Nyrt. Meanwhile, eastern Europe’s biggest discount airline, Wizz Air Holdings Plc, decided to list its shares in London instead of Budapest last year.

Since the central bank purchased the bourse from the operator of the Vienna stock exchange in November, a new management has been working on steps to boost liquidity and create a platform for funding small and middle-size enterprises. Investors are also eyeing the potential listing of state-owned companies, including energy firm MVM and lottery operator Szerencsejatek Zrt. Budapest Bank, which the state purchased from GE Capital last year, would be ready for an initial public offering, CEO Gyorgy Zolnai said in January.

While Waberer’s would have been a major boost for the stock market’s revival, it’s acquisition may not completely thwart the new leadership’s efforts, according to Concorde’s Tunkli.

"Momentum may become a bit slower and investors will turn to the potential listing of banks as early as next year," Tunkli said.