Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Romania may raise free float in Transgaz after IPO

BUCHAREST, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Romania may raise the listed stake in state-owned gas pipeline operator Transgaz if its initial public offering this year is successful, Finance and Economy Minister Varujan Vosganian said on Tuesday.

Transgaz is seeking to raise roughly 67 million euros ($99 million) to help fund infrastructure expansion, by selling a 10 percent stake in an IPO, the Bucharest Stock Exchange's largest so far.

Investors can subscribe to the IPO between Nov. 26 and Dec. 7 with the listing likely in February 2008.

"We are taking into account the possibility of increasing the Transgaz offer as a percentage of its ... capital in case the market will react favourably (to the IPO)," Vosganian told a news conference. He did not provide details.

"We are obviously counting on an oversubscription," he said.

State monopoly Transgaz, part of a consortium planning to build the Nabucco gas pipeline to bring Iranian and Caspian gas to central Europe, will offer 1.17 million new shares at 191.9 lei ($80.63) per share.

In the IPO, around 40 percent of the shares will be on offer for small buyers, who could subscribe up to 500,000 lei, with the rest directed at large-scale investors.

Raiffeisen Capital & Investment, the local brokerage unit of Raiffeisen Bank, will oversee the IPO, which analysts said will breathe life into Bucharest's illiquid bourse.

Vosganian also mentioned further plans to list minority stakes in state-owned energy firms, such as nuclear power operator Nuclearelectrica, hydro electricity firm Hidroelectrica, gas producer Romgaz and coal-fired energy holdings.

"Probably Hidroelectrica is best prepared for this (at the moment)," he said.

NABUCCO PLANS

Transgaz, which reported a 68 percent annual rise in net profit to 161.5 million lei in 2006 and a return on equity of 7 percent, aims to boost relations with foreign operators.

It is one of six prospective partners in the Nabucco pipeline, a long-delayed 4.6 billion euro project seen as a key plank in European Union plans to ease dependence on Russian gas.

On Tuesday, Transgaz director Ioan Rusu said the five existing partners in the Nabucco project should pick the sixth partner and move forward with the pipeline by the first quarter of next year.

"We believe that in the first quarter of 2008 the Nabucco project will move on to the next stage ... the auctioning of transport capacities," Rusu said.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Rory Channing)

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