Business 19/05/2021

La Caixa shields dividends received from Naturgy and complicates IFM's takeover bid for the gas company

Criteria announces that it will not only maintain its stake in the company, but will also increase its participation

2 min
Fins to the birth of CaixaBank, in July, the entity will not buy.

BarcelonaCriteriaCaixa has decided to counterattack in the middle of IFM's takeover bid for Naturgy. The Australian fund presented in January a takeover bid to buy 22% of the Catalan gas company and there had been speculation that Criteria could sell part of its stake to the company, of which it is the largest shareholder. This would have matched the recent strategy of this company completely controlled by La Caixa. In 2018 the star group sold, for example, its stake to Abertis.

However, Criteria has communicated that not only will it not sell its stake, but will increase it. It currently controls 24.8%. What it will not do, in any case, is to exceed 29.9% of the capital, since Spanish law would then force it to launch a takeover bid for 100% of the capital. Criteria's decision complicates the possibility that IFM's takeover bid will succeed, since almost three quarters of the capital is held by three shareholders: CaixaBank (24.8%), Rioja (20.7%) and GIP (20.6%).

With this move, CriteriaCaixa aims to shield its main source of income, which in turn is the main source of La Caixa's social work. Criteria is a holding company that groups together several holdings in La Caixa and is fed by the dividends that these holdings bring in. And among these participations, the one that brings more money is Naturgy, especially now, when the other major investee (CaixaBank) has the payment of dividends capped by orders of the European Central Bank due to the coronavirus crisis.

In 2020, for example, Criteria received 650 million in dividends, of which 340 million (52% of the total) came from the Catalan gas company and 160 million (25%) from the bank.

The coronavirus has accentuated a previous trend, because Naturgy was already the main contributor of dividends, but not so prominently. In 2019, specifically, of the 743 million entered in dividends, 321 came from Naturgy (43%) and 167 million from CaixaBank (22%).