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7 Mar 2007

Hedge Funds Driving Bank Stocks Up 50%

Hedge funds have acquired around 7% in Landesbank Berlin, the hedge funds hope to profit following the sales process, as the new majority stakeholder will be obliged to make minority shareholders a buyout offer, a report said.

The unnamed hedge funds are positioned to profit from the sale regardless of who buys the bank and their acquisitions have pushed the price up more than 50% to €7.57 in the past six months. The price values the bank at €7.6bn ($10bn), far more than its €4bn to €5bn price-tag.

The city state must sell its 81% stake in Landesbank Berlin by the end of this year to conform with EU directives. The sale is being closely watched in the financial sector because Landesbank Berlin owns Berliner Sparkasse and therefore represents the first real opportunity for private banks to enter the previously protected public savings bank sector.

"The free-float is firmly in the hands of hedge funds by now," said one adviser to a potential bidder, who declined to be named.

However, the small free-float, and the lack of liquidity has deterred hedge funds from taking big stakes while political risk has prevented the shares rising higher, according to one hedge fund adviser.

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