Billionaire Radovan Vitek battles board in Ablon bid

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The Independent Online

Czech billionaire Radovan Vitek is fighting for control of Ablon, a shopping centre, hotel and office building developer that is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Mr Vitek, pictured, one of Eastern Europe's richest men and a major shareholder in Ablon, made a preliminary approach through his Czech Property Investments vehicle earlier this month. He is looking to pay £30.8m, an amount Ablon's board and smaller shareholders argue is lowball.

Ablon raised almost £100m when it floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, valuing the company at £250m. Since then, the 20-year-old company's European property portfolio has been hit by the economic downturn, so that its market value is now closer to £30m.

Alex Borrelli, Ablon's chairman, told The Independent that Mr Vitek's proposed offer did "not reflect the underlying value in the company".

The group's property assets, which include an airport logistics park in Budapest, Hungary, and a proposed marina near Gdansk in Poland, alone are worth €385m (£331.7m).

Mr Vitek, who resigned from Ablon's board this month, owns around 22 per cent of the group's shares. Austrian bank Volksbank owns 24 per cent, and Uri Heller – who founded the company in Hungary – has 28 per cent. Investors speculated that Mr Vitek and Mr Heller could be working on a combined bid.

Mr Heller was chief executive until he was ousted late last year after an extraordinary general meeting demanded by Volksbank. Neither party could be reached for comment.

One investor said: "There is no doubt that Ablon needs to be recapitalised to see it through the remainder of the current property dip. However, it seems as though Mr Vitek is trying to use the present market conditions to bid for the company while its value is low."

Under taveover rules, Mr Vitek must formalise his offer by 6 March.