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After cashing in money from the Trieste Lion company, the Czech business Yeti is aiming at new preys

telecommunication towers view from below

The recent operation by means of which the Generali bought from the Czech billionaire the remaining 49% of Generali PPF Holding (the joint venture created five years ago), amounting to 2.6 billion euro, has raised a certain amount of curiosity as to how the Scrooge Mc Duck of the Czech Republic will use this money, in view also of the fact that his craving for new investments is far from being appeased.

Great news is expected, for example, in the energy sector, not only in the Czech Republic, but also across Central Europe, because for some time now, Czech national boundaries have become too tight for Mr Kellner. The Czech business Yeti, as he is often called for his extreme reservedness, has already started putting his hands – with his usual voracious approach – onto important assets, thanks to his stake in the Energetický a průmyslový holding (Eph, energy and industrial holding, of which he holds 44.5%, the majority stake).

Eph has just acquired 49% and the management control of the of Slovak gas utility Slovenský plynárenský priemysel (Spp, with 51% belonging to the Slovak State). Selling him the shares was the German company E.On Ruhrgas and the French GDF Suez, thanks to a compensation of € 2.5 billion (the largest investment ever made by a Czech company outside the Country).

Kellner shares the property of Eph with J&T – another very active investments group, which operates both in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, owner of 37% of Eph – and with the Czech businessman Daniel Křetínský (18.5%). Quite recent is the news that Eph is going to participate in a bid to buy Net4Gas, the company that runs the gas pipelines in the Czech Republic. An objective that has also been confirmed by Tomáš Malatinský, the Slovak Minister. Net4Gas now belongs to the German group RWE, which would like to gain at least 35 billion Czech crowns from the deal, about 1.4 billion euro.

It has been hypothesized recently, especially in the Slovak press, that Eph is interested in gaining control of (SSE) Stredoslovenská energetika, one of the leading Slovak companies in the distribution of electricity. No comments on the part of Eph, but according to leaked information, to sell them a 49% stake of Sse, could be (EdF) Electricité de France, that also has the management control of the same distribution company.

Furthermore, Eph is 100% controlled by EP Energy, a group with nearly five thousand employees, specialized energy sector investments and owner of a number of production facilities, with profits (in the first nine months of 2012) amounting to 8.6 billion crowns (almost € 350 million), three times higher than in the same period in 2011. The company, which also owns 50% of a lignite mine in Germany (Mibrag), aims this year to buy a major power plant in the Czech Republic from Čez, probably Chvaletice, and there is talk also of an additional objective: the possible construction of a manufacturing facility in Germany.

It should also be noted that just last October, Ep Energy obtained a syndicated loan amounting to one billion euro, about 25 billion crowns from a pool of 11 banks – coordinated by UniCredit Bank, among which there is also Česká spořitelna, Čsob, Komerční banka and the Czech subsidiary of Ing. It is the highest loan that has ever been granted to a Czech company.

Even these resources are likely to be used to nourish Petr Kellner’s ambition to control a company that is able to compete with Čez, the giant Czech national energy company.

Another future business area, which Petr Kellner could concentrate on, is the telecommunications sector. It is no accident that for some time now there have been rumours of a possible interest on the part of PPF for CR Telefónica. If the Spanish parent company should decide to sell the Czech subsidiary, Kellner is surely ready – and as far as we know – preliminary contacts have already taken place.

by Giovanni Usai