Matt Atlas

PPF Defends Valuation Plan For Moneta Merger

Czech billionaire Petr Kellner’s investment company defended the terms for its proposal to take over Moneta Money Bank AS, rejecting criticism from some shareholders that the plan was disadvantageous for the Prague-traded lender.

PPF Group NV is “strongly committed” to combining Moneta with its Czech financial assets, said Jean-Pascal Duvieusart, a PPF shareholder and chief executive officer at its Home Credit BV unit. In a phone interview on Monday, he dismissed complaints by two Moneta investors alleging that his group is overstating the value of its Air Bank and affiliated businesses.

Kellner is approaching the sixth-biggest Czech bank two years after failed talks on a deal with a different structure. According to Duvieusart, the fresh proposal is “significantly less risky” for Moneta shareholders, while Air Bank has since become a more valuable company with improving profitability and a growing client base.

“I think the offer we put up for discussion with Moneta management is very strong and fair,” he said. “Air Bank is now a demonstrated success story.”

To boost the chances of the merger via a share exchange, PPF last month proposed to first buy up to 29% of Moneta in a voluntary tender offer at 80 koruna per share. The stock initially jumped 10% after the news, but has since stabilized below 75 koruna, in a sign that some shareholders may reject the offer. It closed at 74.3 koruna on Monday, valuing the bank at 38 billion koruna.

Moneta and Air Bank would together hold assets totaling 454 billion koruna as of the third quarter of last year, which would make the combined balance sheet the fifth largest among the country’s lenders. Duvieusart said PPF’s wants to create the country’s third largest bank for retail and small and medium-sized businesses.

The two transactions could make PPF the majority owner of the combined entity and it’s “fairly likely” that this would trigger a mandatory buyout offer to the remaining shareholders, according to Duvieusart. Still, the group wants to keep the company traded on the stock exchange to maintain its publicity, access to capital and good credit ratings.

“We do not intend to delist Moneta at any point in time,” said the Home Credit CEO. 

“Especially for a financial institution the size of Moneta and the joint entity, being publicly listed is definitely beneficial for all the investors.”