Barclays Accidentally Buys £600m Stake in a Dutch Cable TV Business

Barclays Canary Wharf

Barclays has accidentally bought a £600m stake in a Dutch cable TV business after the bank botched the sale of private equity shareholdings in the company.

The bank has been left holding a 14.2% stake in Ziggo, the Netherlands' largest cable TV operator, after it failed to find enough bidders for a 20% stake it was selling on behalf of buyout firms.

This makes Barclays Ziggo's biggest shareholder and caps a disastrous week for the bank, which has been accused of trying to sneak out news that it handed its top bankers bonuses worth almost £40m.

Barclays was left with the stake after it agreed to underwrite the "block sale" of 40m Ziggo shares on behalf of Cinven and Warburg Pincus.

Block sales, which one banker recently likened to Russian roulette, have caught out other big banks recently. HSBC was left with a €410m (£349m) stake in Spanish IT company Amadeus in November after it failed to attract enough interest in a stake it was selling on behalf of Germany's Lufthansa airline and Air France-KLM.

Bankers at rival firms said many investment banks had bid to run the Ziggo sale, but Barclays had offered the company a higher price than the others.

Barclays agreed to guarantee the sale at €25.05 a share, which means it would have been forced to pay €713m (£607m) for the 14.2% stake it failed to sell to others. Ziggo's shares closed down 3.7% to €24.22.

If Barclays had successfully sold the whole stake, it would have almost doubled Barclays deal volume so far this year, and moved it up two rungs from eighth to sixth in deal rankings. The bank declined to comment.

Earlier this week, Barclays was accused of trying to bury news that it paid its top bankers an "extraordinarily greedy" £39.5m in bonuses by sneaking out the pay details when most of the City was distracted by the budget.

The bank, which promised it was "changing" after being fined £290m last year for its role in the Libor-rigging scandal, gave £17.6m worth of shares to Rich Ricci, the head of its investment banking division. Ricci, who owns 11 horses that raced at the Cheltenham Festival last week – including one named Fatcatinthehat – immediately cashed in all of the shares.

Powered by article was written by Jill Treanor and Rupert Neate, for The Guardian on Friday 22nd March 2013 20.41 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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