Sunday 19 March 2017

Argentinian Billionaire Bidding For Falkland Island


Argentinian property billionaire Eduardo Elsztain, through his Dolphin Fund, revealed on Wednesday he was considering a bid for AIM-listed FIH Group, which is also the disputed territory’s biggest retailer and controls its transport network.

Elsztain is Argentina’s biggest property investor and jointly owns Banco Hipotecario, Argentina’s biggest mortgage lender, with the government.

Tensions between Argentina and the UK, which went to war over the islands in 1982, have eased since new president Mauricio Macri took office in 2015, but last year he reiterated Argentina’s claim on the Falklands, or Las Malvinas, as they are known in Argentina.

If Elsztain makes a formal offer, it will test the Prime Minister’s pledge to block foreign takeovers not in the national interest.

Former business secretary Sir Vince Cable said: “The grounds on which the Government can intervene in public interest are quite limited.

“But if it is a national security issue and some Argentines are trying to take over the islands by the back door, I would have thought that would be a very good case for intervention.”

Dr David Reader at the Centre for Competition Policy also said it could “raise national security concerns”, adding: “If shareholders agree to any forthcoming deal, it could mark an interesting test case in terms of the Government’s policy towards foreign takeovers going forward.”

Dolphin sent a letter to FIH asking for information to “evaluate making a cash offer, at a significant premium” to the recommended £37 million bid on the table from the multi-millionaire Rowland family, FIH’s largest shareholder.

Edmund Rowland, son of controversial Tory donor David Rowland, is executive chairman of FIH, formerly known as Falkland Islands Holdings.

Today Staunton, the Rowland family trust, said it did not want to enter dialogue with Dolphin and lowered the threshold required for its takeover to go through from 90% to 50%.

FIH traces its roots to 1852 when its subsidiary, the Falkland Islands Company, was granted Royal Charter status.

The company now also owns an art dealer and the Portsmouth Harbour Ferry Company, but is still the islands’ largest landowner, with nearly 400 acres around the capital Port Stanley.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “This is a commercial matter between two companies and not for the Foreign Office to comment on.”

The Falkland Islands government said in a statement last night: “The government continues to closely monitor the status of Dolphin Fund’s potential bid. Any proposed change of ownership affecting assets held in the Falkland Islands will be scrutinized for compliance with Falkland Islands Law.”



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