Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Peregrine Equities, a subsidiary of JSE-listed financial services group Peregrine Holdings, has boosted its stake in investment stock Astoria to 20.83%.

The Astoria stake was being held on behalf of clients, a Peregrine spokesman said on Wednesday, adding their identities could not be disclosed.

Peregrine’s holding in Astoria has been increased steadily in 2017, from an initial 10.46% in March, to 15.57% in June. The stake is worth close to R320m, based on Astoria’s market capitalisation of about R1.55bn.

It is not clear whether the shareholding represents a strategic position on behalf of clients that might be increased further or merely a large portfolio position in an undervalued international investment portfolio.

Astoria was set up as a specialist investment company offering investors based in SA exposure to diversified global assets. Although the portfolio is managed by Anchor Capital, there is no outright controlling shareholder, with the largest shareholders — aside from Peregrine’s position — being the Anchor Alt Agg Fund (6.17%) and RMB Securities (5.92%).

Astoria’s shares trade at a discount to the last stated net asset value of $1.12 a share as at the end of June. At the latest exchange rates, Astoria’s shares carry a net asset value of 1,500c/share compared with Tuesday’s close of R12.20.

Astoria’s portfolio is well diversified with no single position — other than its significant minority shareholding in Polish property specialist Echo Polska — representing more than 4% of the portfolio.

Vunani Securities analyst Anthony Clark said the "where-to-from-here" scenario would be intriguing, especially if there were indications of an intervention to gain management control at Astoria.

But wresting management control from Anchor could come at a cost, he said, adding that a "break fee" would be triggered if the management mandate was changed.

HasenfussM@tisoblackstar.co.za

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