|THE Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has raised its stake in J Sainsbury, the UK’s third largest supermarket group, to 26% from 25.3%.
QIA, which has been shoring up its investments amid the global credit crunch, acquired another 12.36mn shares between June 25 and July 2, taking its total holding to 454.52mn shares or 26% of the supermarket’s capital, according to a regulatory filing with the London Stock Exchange.
It had bought 4.34mn shares on June 25, 3.01mn share on June 27 and 5mn shares on Wednesday.
QIA, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, has reportedly more than $60bn assets.
QIA built up the bulk of its Sainsbury stake last year through its Delta Two Fund, the vehicle it used to launch an unsuccessful bid approach for the supermarket group, which has about 770 stores and employs about 155,000 people in the UK.
The Qatar fund, along with Delta Two, had bid last year to buy Sainsbury’s for £10.5bn but hit a blockade in November when it could not agree a deal with trustees of the pension fund to secure the future benefits for members.
However, trustees of the Sainsbury pension fund had denied they were seeking an immediate pension buyout in light of fresh Qatari interest in the company, but said they might look again at all the options.
There were also reports that the supermarket chain was looking at selling its pension scheme.
Qatar’s attempt was the second by a private equity operation to buy the supermarket chain, after CVC Capital failed earlier in 2007. A consortium, led by CVC Partners, dropped their 600 pence-a-share proposal after the founding Sainsbury family, which owns 18% of the firm, had opposed its plans.
Justin King, chief executive at Sainsbury’s, has continually been maintaining that the QIA remains a supportive shareholder.
Qatar and Delta Two, which proposed the bid, have been free to make another offer since May’s expiration of a ‘lock-out’ period of six months mandated by the UK takeover rules.
According to the Bloomberg news agency, QIA and Delta Two were attracted by Sainsbury’s real estate which, according to chief financial officer Darren Shapland, could be worth as much as £8.6bn.
QIA’s international investments include stakes in the UK-based Four Seasons Healthcare, London Stock Exchange, Nordic Exchange OMX, Lagardere of France, Jordan’s Housing Bank for Trade and Finance and Singapore’s Raffles Medical Group.
It was also a co-investor in Dubai International Capital’s purchase of a 3.12% stake in European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Company (EADS), the parent company of Airbus Industries.