Tõnis Oja: Tallink on sea of speculations

Tallinki logo

PHOTO: Toomas Huik

Nearly all needs to be known about listed companies, but when it comes to Tallink, the public is almost totally in the dark. Another mysterious move around the shipping group started happening three months ago, the company announcing large transactions involving 15.7 per cent of shares changing hands.

A company called Baltic Cruises bought shares from a private equity fund it is owned by, but also from two investment funds and the main holder Infortar.  

In addition to that, major shareholders agreed that up until April 30th, only Baltic Cruises may purchase over 0.1 per cent of Tallink shares – and that without informing other shareholders. In other words: only Baltic Cruises is allowed to increase its shareholding.

And indeed, these last weeks have been really busy for Baltic Cruises, buying up shares from institutional investors. By yesterday morning, Baltic Cruises’ holding has already increased to 16.5 per cent – due to which there is now talk of Tallink being taken off the stock market. Postimees wrote about such a scenario back in December already, when the shares’ sale took place.

Whence such speculations? The first and foremost reason is the major shareholders’ agreement forbidding others from purchasing shares until end of April, and afterwards to co-ordinate the purchases (getting approval). It is evident that the ban aims at letting Baltic Cruises buy shares from the market without their prices climbing too high.

It is also clear that Tallink would only be delisted if so desired by the largest shareholder Infortar lead by Enn Pant. To them belong a little under 40 per cent of Tallink shares.

Sadly, we are ignorant who are behind the private equity fund Baltic Cruises. As explained by Tallink, the company is advised by private equity firm Citi Venture Capital International Advisers, specialising in investments in emerging markets.

The public has gotten the impression that these are foreign investors. In spite of the fund being based in London, its investors may come from anywhere. I’m not ruling out, at all, that these may be investors geographically close to us, or very close.

Now, looking back in history, it was not voluntarily that Tallink was listed in December 2005 – the initial public offering (IPO) being a condition set by investors participating in the targeted issue of the fall of 2003. Evidently, being enlisted has not fulfilled the hopes of those who desired it. And, as Tallink’s economic indicators point at possibilities for dividends, it might be more attractive for them to shrink the circle of owners as small as possible.

I’m guessing that, latest by end of April, something very weighty will happen. Then, we’ll see more light.