MADRID, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Naturgy's main
shareholder on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining
the Spanish energy group's dividend policy and to building its
stake in the firm, putting it at loggerheads with Australian
Investment group IFM launched a 4.9 billion euro ($5.8
billion) bid to acquire a 22.69% stake in Naturgy in January,
but has since come into conflict with the company's biggest
IFM said last Wednesday it would accept a reduced dividend
from Naturgy to support its development plans, but a day later
Naturgy said its board planned to stick with the current
dividend policy regardless of the outcome of the bid.
On Monday Isidre Faine, the chairman of the Caixabank
banking foundation, which holds a 26.3% stake in
Naturgy through its ownership of holding company Criteria, said
Naturgy's dividend "is a fundamental pillar of its revenues".
Faine said the foundation "reaffirmed its desire to
strengthen its capital in Naturgy and to continue as the leading
Criteria's plans to increase its stake in Naturgy to up to
30% are seen by the market as an attempt to block the bid from
IFM. A source had also told Reuters earlier this year that
Criteria's plan could clash with the IFM bid.
The offer is subject to securing at least 17% in the Spanish
energy group, although IFM said in its prospectus filed last
week it could decide to lower the minimum threshold to 10%.
The three main shareholders in Naturgy hold more than a
combined 67% of the energy group, while Naturgy's free-float
stands at currently 27.58%.
Naturgy's shareholders have until Oct. 8 to accept the
(Reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by Jan Harvey)