PPF's MONETA deal won't be derailed by founder's death, vote likely by June, says CFO

PRAGUE, April 1(Reuters) - Investment group PPF, hit by the death of its billionaire founder Petr Kellner, is proceeding with deals including the proposed merger of its Czech lending business with MONETA, finance chief Katerina Jiraskova said.

Jiraskova, who has worked at PPF since 2000, told Reuters the death of Kellner, 56, in a helicopter crash in Alaska on Saturday would not delay the MONETA transaction and it could be put to a MONETA shareholder vote in May or June.

“When we are approving a transaction, we approve its framework at the beginning,” she said on Wednesday.

The MONETA deal, which ultimately aims to give PPF a majority stake, has two stages. Initially, PPF is awaiting regulatory approval on its transaction to raise its MONETA stake to 28.36%.

“The regulator has its time limits, and considering that we actively communicate with them regarding the transaction and unfortunately also due to the accident, so far we do not see any reason for these time limits not to be adhered to, for anything to be interrupted or artificially delayed,” she said.

The next step is a merger of MONETA with PPF’s Air Bank, as well as Czech and Slovak businesses of PPF’s consumer lender Home Credit, in exchange for shares to give PPF a majority.

Analysts say the new proposal values Air Bank at 22.6 billion crowns ($1.01 billion).

PPF had first aimed to gain approval from MONETA shareholders at its annual meeting on April 28 but the vote is not on the announced agenda. Jiraskova said it would now likely be at another meeting.

She said such changes were normal in deals and the delay was also influenced by COVID-19 restrictions, rather than the loss of Kellner.

Separately, Jiraskova said PPF was preparing for a potential deal involving its telecoms infrastructure firm CETIN. “Various options including an IPO are still on the table,” she said.

PPF, which had assets of 44 billion euros ($52 billion) as of mid-2020, has appointed Kellner’s long-time business partner Ladislav Bartonicek, one of two remaining shareholders who together hold just over 1% of PPF shares, to lead the group.

Jiraskova said the PPF leadership faced no constraints on operations pending the processing of the founder’s inheritance. She said the team was used to working independently.

“We will fully respect the wishes of the family and other shareholders. We are ready to work as well as we can,” she said.

($1 = 22.2740 Czech crowns)

$1 = 0.8537 euros Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Edmund Blair