Greece aims to sell stakes in Postbank and Proton Bank in July

Greece’s rescue fund Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) intends to divest Hellenic Postbank SA (ATH:TT) and Proton Bank SA by the middle of July, Reuters said, citing an inspection review by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The disposal is part of the ongoing restructuring of Greece’s banking sector, which was launched following a severe six-year economic recession in the country. HFSF received an aid package of EUR50bn (USD64.2bn) from the EU and IMF to carry out the process, which includes the recapitalisation of Greece’s four big banks and the gradual closure of others.

According to the review, the Greek authorities are due to work out a strategy by mid-July to privatise HFSF-owned banks and consolidate the banking sector. HFSF is expected to have enough funds to perform stress tests of the sector by the end of this year.

Greece’s top banks National Bank of Greece SA (NYSE:NBG), EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA, Alpha Bank SA and Piraeus Bank SA are seen to complete their recapitalisation by 14 June. HFSF will provide most of the needed EUR27.5bn for the restoration of the lenders’ capital bases.

Spain’s Telefonica considers asset disposals in a move to cut debt

Spanish telecom operator Telefonica SA (MCE:TEF) is mulling over additional divestments, which may include its Irish and Czech operations, assets in Central America and its minority holding in China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd (HKG:0762), Bloomberg reported, quoting people in the know.

The Irish and Czech units were tipped as being a high priority for sale.

The company has not decided yet on the disposals, which would be part of its drive to cut debt, and has not mandated banks to handle the processes, the sources said.

Telefonica had received a bid for Telefonica Czech Republic AS, which includes Slovakia, from a financial firm in 2012 but dismissed it as too low, two of the insiders told the agency.

The Spanish company shed around half of its holding in China Unicom in June, entering into a one-year-long lock-up for the remaining 5%.

Telefonica has assets in Central America in Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Telefonica may bag EUR1bn (USD1.3bn) from its Irish and Central American businesses and also EUR1bn from a sale of a 19% stake in Telefonica Czech Republic, which would trim its holding to 50% in the Czech operator, Bloomberg said, citing estimates of FM Capital Partners Ltd. The 5% stake in China Unicom is worth USD1.6bn, the agency added.

US hedge fund Omega Advisors leaves Apple for Facebook

Leon Cooperman’s hedge fund Omega Advisors divested the shares it held in US technology major Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) and acquired new shares in Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and in oil and gas company SandRidge Energy Inc (NYSE:SD) in the fourth quarter of last year, according to a filing with the US securities regulator.

Omega Advisors, which is led by Cooperman as CEO, shed 266,404 shares in Apple, which represented its entire holding in the technology firm and bought 3.16m shares in Facebook as well as 24.38m shares in SandRidge.

The market value of Apple has fallen considerably in the last months.

In addition, Omega Advisors boosted its ownership in US energy firm McMoRan Exploration Company (NYSE:MMR) by some 1.8m shares.

The filing provided no financial details.

Germany’s Siemens hires Rothschild to divest security products unit

German engineering group Siemens AG (ETR:SIE) intends to divest its Sweden-based security products business and has appointed investment bank Rothschild to advise it on the process, Bloomberg reported today citing three insiders.

The move is part of the company’s plan to sell slower-growth operations that are less synergistic with its core activities in a move to bolster its profits.

The target, which employs some 350 people, offers security cameras and access card readers, among other products. Last week, Roland Busch, head of the infrastructure and cities division, said that as a stand-alone entity, the security products business did not comply with the company’s focus on security solutions that are part of its building automation solution and therefore was not viable.

Siemens, whose shareholders already backed the planned spin-off of lighting maker OSRAM Licht AG, also intends to shed its airport luggage systems, mail automation and water technology businesses. Siemens spokesman Philipp Encz refused to comment on other possible sales of units. A spokesman for Rothschild also did not wish to comment.

Food giant Kraft secures tax-free spin off of grocery unit to shareholders

Kraft Foods Inc (NYSE:KFT) said on Friday the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had given its consent to the tax-free spin-off of its North American grocery business to shareholders.

After the separation, announced last August, the North American grocery business will operate as an independent, publicly traded firm under the name Kraft Foods Group Inc.

Dave Brearton, Kraft’s CFO and executive vice president, welcomed the IRS ruling saying the group is on track to launch the two new companies before the end of this year.

The remaining global snacks business, which makes the other publicly traded company, generates annual revenues of some USD32bn (EUR25.2bn), while the North American grocery unit has sales of around USD16bn, Kraft has said, adding that the break-up would allow each of the businesses to pursue their growth freely.

The group views the planned split as the next logical step in its development, expected to enhance performance and generate increased long-term shareholder value, Kraft Foods said in August 2011.

The spin-off is still subject to a number of conditions, including the execution of related inter-company agreements and the final approval from the board of Kraft Foods Inc, the company said today.

With a portfolio of snacks including biscuits, confectionery, beverages, cheese, grocery products and convenient meals, sold in around 170 countries globally, Kraft Foods Inc made revenues of USD54.4bn last year.

Reimann family sells 4.9% stake in Reckitt Benckiser for £1.2bn

German Reimann family’s JAB Holdings BV said on Thursday it had sold to institutional investors 36m shares in British consumer goods firm Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (LON:RB), or 4.9%, for gross proceeds of some GBP1.2bn (USD1.9bn/EUR1.5bn).

The shares were sold at GBP33.50 apiece through an accelerated bookbuild managed by BofA Merrill Lynch, the vendor said, without disclosing the names of the buyers.

Plans to sell the stake, which left JAB with 10.5% in Reckitt Benckiser, were announced on 9 May, when the vendor said it wanted to raise funds for new investments and diversify its portfolio.

JAB will keep its seat in Reckitt Benckiser’s board after this deal, it said, adding that it would not shed any more Reckitt Benckiser shares for one year.

The investor reaffirmed its commitment to Reckitt Benckiser and its confidence in the company’s new management team and its strategy and prospects.

JAB also owns a majority stake in US fragrances maker Coty Inc which launched in April a USD10bn offer to buy rival Avon Products Inc (NYSE:AVP).

Reckitt Benckiser makes branded household, health and personal care products, selling a range of them through more than 60 operating companies into nearly 200 countries. Its geographical segments include Europe, North America and Australia, Developing Markets and RB Pharmaceuticals.