GLOBAL – The major shareholder in Nieuwe Steen Investments (NSI) has played down suggestions that it would lose its stake to banks and bondholders after it secured a last-minute 90-day loan worth €1.3bn.
Amir Nitzani, chief executive at Habas Star, a Dutch holding company that owns more than one-fifth of NSI, said managers and bondholders in Israel were in the process of hammering out a deal likely to be agreed within weeks.
"They're working towards a solution but they need time – it can't happen tomorrow," he said. "It will happen within the term of the loan, but we have long miles to go before we get there."
Habas Star's 20.5% ownership of the €2.3bn real estate investment trust (REIT) is held via a special purpose vehicle (SPV), Tulip.
Tel Aviv-listed Habas Group has a 74% stake in Habas Star.
A subsidiary of car firm Mayer, which provided the loan to cover Tulip's recapitalisation, holds the other 26%.
Habas Group chairman Hertzel Habas, who sits on NSI's board, warned bondholders last week that the group would be unable inject cash into Tulip – as required by bank lenders – after a 75% fall in the value of its investment.
Residential developer Aspen this week offered Habas bondholders a deal swapping their debt for equity in the firm if they agreed to a takeover – a proposal that has been welcomed by at least one analyst as a potential balance-sheet booster.
"I wouldn't call it a hostile takeover, but they certainly didn't discuss it with us first," said Nitzani. "It's good news for NSI. The fact investors are circling suggests they understand NSI is underpriced. If they didn't think it was cheap, they wouldn't be circling."
But asked about the prospect that Israeli bondholders – or banks – could end up as the majority shareholder in NSI, Nitzani said: "Fixed income investors aren't interested in getting hold of the shares – they want the bond obligation fulfilled. If we can offer a solution they can accept – whether it's higher interest or an equity component – there are better options than taking over the shareholding."
He added: "These are Israeli bondholders. They're not familiar with the Netherlands. It isn't their playground."
A spokeswoman for NSI, the product of a 2011 merger between Nieuwe Steen Investments and retail fund VastNed, said the REIT was "not involved" in its shareholder's financial difficulties.
"We aren't party to the situation, and it will have no impact on our operations," she said.