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Helios Sold to Austrian Holding Ring International (adds)

Ljubljana, 16 October (STA) - Austrian group Ring International acquired on Wednesday a 73.12% stake in coatings maker Helios from a consortium of mostly state-owned banks and insurance companies. The signatories of the deal said that the sale was an important milestone on Helios's way toward becoming the industry's leading company in Europe.

The Vienna-based Ring International holding, active in office supplies and industrial coatings, will pay EUR 520 per share for Helios, which is a leading coatings maker in SE Europe and the first company to have been sold among the 15 firms slated by the Alenka Bratušek government for privatisation.

The holding plans to publish a bid for the acquisition of the remaining 26.88% once it meets all criteria, including anti-trust clearance.

The share price agreed means the entire company is worth more than EUR 250m. EUR 145m of this is equity capital, while the company's debt as at the end of the first half of this year is also factored in.

The stake in Helios was sold by a consortium of six banks (NLB, Abanka, NKBM, Banka Celje, Gorenjska banka, Probanka), two insurers (Zavarovalnica Triglav, Modra zavarovalnica) and five funds (SOD, Triglav skladi, NFD, Primorski skladi, KBM Infond).

Ring International holding CEO Gerald Martens told the press in Ljubljana that Helios would remain headquartered in Slovenia. The brand is also to be preserved, while the number of employees might even increase.

The Domžale-based company, some of which ended up in banks' hands as collateral for loans to the Church-related Zvon Ena Holding, presently employs 2,200 people and has ten production facilities in Slovenia, Croatia, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

In 2012, the entire Ring International group employed around 1,300 people on three continents and 13 production locations.

Martens announced that given Ring's plans to integrate part of its coatings division into Helios's operations, it expects to secure more effectiveness at the level of the group, especially in the field of research and development.

Ring International contractually committed itself to have the research activities centred in Slovenia for as long as this will be commercially feasible.

Helios will become the headquarters and the main brand of the new joint company, an active consolidator of the coatings industry in Europe with a focus on SE Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet republics), Martens announced.

Holding Ring International already owns a company in Slovenia, having acquired the Železniki-based metal stationary products manufacturer Niko in 2008. Since the acquisition, the Austrian owners have invested more than EUR 8m into machinery and an upgrade of the supply chain.

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