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UPDATE 1-PPF lifts stake in O2 Czech Republic to above 90%, plans de-listing

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PRAGUE, June 24 (Reuters) - Investment group PPF is set to take full control of O2 Czech Republic and withdraw the Czech telecoms group from the Prague stock exchange, dealing a blow to a bourse that has seen the exit of other companies in recent years.

PPF said on Thursday it had lifted its stake in the group to 90.01%, from 83.58%, in a reverse accelerated bookbuilding launched on Wednesday, for a maximum price of 264 crowns per share. It purchased the shares in the process for a total 5.1 billion crowns ($240.1 million).

Shares in O2 Czech Republic, the fourth-largest stock in Prague, had fallen 2.8% to 261.50 crowns by mid-morning.

With its stake rising above the regulatory 90% level, PPF said it would initiate a squeeze-out procedure of the remaining shareholders in O2 Czech Republic.

PPF, the investment group founded by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner who died in a helicopter crash in March, has controlled O2 Czech Republic since 2014 and said its decision reflected a sharp decline in the average daily traded volumes in its shares.

It said 9.3 million crowns worth of O2 shares were traded daily so far in 2021, down from 33 million crowns in 2016 and 134 million a decade ago.

O2 Czech Republic, operating in the Czech and Slovak markets, reported a net profit of 5.8 billion crowns in 2020, a rise of 7.1% as its business weathered the coronavirus pandemic, helped by cost cuts. It serves nearly 6 million customers in the Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million.

PPF, with assets of almost 40 billion euros across Europe and Asia, has grown its telecoms business in central and eastern Europe.

In February, it said it was considering an initial public offering for its telecommunications network group CETIN, which was spun out of O2 Czech Republic in 2015.

The Prague stock has seen other companies exit, most recently when artificial textile maker PFNonwovens’ owner initiated a squeeze-out that was approved in February.

PPF removed Central European Media Enterprises (CME) from the market after its 2020 acquisition of the broadcaster.

$1 = 21.2410 Czech crowns Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Edmund Blair and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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