Hochtief CEO lobbies for Qatari help in ACS battle

FRANKFURT (BestGrowthStock) – Hochtief (HOTG.DE: ) Chief Executive Herbert Luetkestratkoetter met with Qatar’s economy minister at the end of September, lobbying for support against an unwanted low-ball offer from Spain’s ACS (ACS.MC: ).

A spokeswoman for Hochtief said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had arranged for Luetkestratkoetter to be introduced to minister Youssef Kamal at a recent event hosted by Germany’s President Christian Wulff.

A German government spokeswoman said Hochtief was discussed at the event, without being more specific.

ACS, headed by Real Madrid soccer club President Florentino Perez, has said it will offer Hochtief shareholders eight ACS shares for every five Hochtief shares they own, valuing the German builder at about 3.7 billion euros ($5.2 billion). ($1.02 billion) to get a majority stake in Hochtief.

Luetkestratkoetter has said the offer is hostile and offers no value for Hochtief, which has a market value of 4.4 billion euros. Hochtief has hired Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX: ), Goldman Sachs (GS.N: ) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE: ) to work out a defense strategy.

Hochtief and its Australian unit Leighton Holdings (LEI.AX: ), of which it owns 54 percent, have already asked Australian regulators to help them fend off ACS’s approach.

Banking sources earlier this month told Reuters Hochtief has lobbied Berlin to seek protection and has sought investors in the form of sovereign wealth funds in Dubai and Qatar.

ACS’s deliberately low-priced bid is designed to allow the Spanish company to gradually up its stake without having to offer a premium for control.

German magazine Der Spiegel earlier on Sunday reported that Qatar was now in talks to take a stake in Hochtief, but said no decision had been made yet.

Neither sovereign wealth fund Qatari Investment Authority nor investment arm Qatar Holding were available for comment.

Insiders have said the German government is unlikely to see any takeover by ACS as politically sensitive, while ACS’s 29.9 percent stake could put off many white knights who would get a hostile response from the Spanish builder.

Still, Germany’s Merkel has said she believes Hochtief should remain based in Germany. A German cabinet source has told Reuters Berlin is considering tightening its takeover laws in view of ACS’s acquisition attempt.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan, Anneli Palmen, Andreas Rinke and Regan Doherty; Editing by David Cowell)

Hochtief CEO lobbies for Qatari help in ACS battle