Wednesday, 22 May 2024
BusinessA former senior official of Mariano Rajoy advises on the takeover bids...

A former senior official of Mariano Rajoy advises on the takeover bids for Talgo and the chemical company Ercros

From occupying important positions in the Administration to advising on two of the major business operations of these days in Spain: the public acquisition offer (takeover bid) of the Hungarian group Magyar Vagon for Talgo and that of the Portuguese group Bondalti for the Catalan chemical company Ercros. In both, María Luisa Poncela, a senior official in Mariano Rajoy’s governments, will have some relevance.

The former Secretary of State for Commerce between 2016 and 2018 is an independent director of Talgo and Bondalti, opada and opante, respectively. It is one of the activities in the private sector of the economist, an official of the State’s body of commercial technicians, who was also General Secretary of Science and Innovation (2013-2016), International Director of Renfe Operadora until 2020 when she was appointed advisor of Talgo, director of the Center for Technological and Industrial Development (CDTI) or economic and commercial advisor of the Spanish Embassy in Budapest (Hungary).

From there comes the offer for 100% of the emblematic Spanish train manufacturer controlled by a vehicle in Luxembourg from the Trilantic investment fund, Torreal, from billionaire Juan Abelló, and the management team, headed by the president of Talgo, Carlos de Palacio and de Oriol, grandson of the founder José Luis Oriol and fourth son of the Marquises of Villarreal.

The Hungarian group’s offer was finally made official this Thursday despite the rejection expressed by several members of the Spanish Government. It offers 5 euros per share and values ​​Talgo at 619 million euros. 45% of the company launching the offer is a public entity of the Hungarian government, led by the far-right Viktor Orbán.

The Spanish Government could veto the takeover bid under the so-called anti-takeover shield that it launched with the pandemic to defend companies considered strategic, even if the buyer is European, although it will have to argue its decision very well to avoid future litigation. The Executive has pointed out that there could be Russian investors behind it and has announced that it will try to stop it, considering Talgo a key company, especially now that sustainable mobility is presented as the main stimulus for the economy.

The Hungarians already reached a preliminary agreement with the bank on Wednesday to avoid the main obstacle that the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) placed in their first intention to present this takeover bid at the beginning of February. The regulator then found a regulatory problem: that banks can cancel their loans with Talgo if the company’s owner changes. Talgo’s accounts include 23 entities with credits of 329 million. The offeror, Ganz-Mavag, led by businessmen György Bacsa and András Tombor, has convinced the bank to continue betting on the Talgo project, even if it changes hands. This will set a precedent for the Government’s decision to veto or not this operation.

The Hungarians’ intention is to take advantage of Talgo’s high-speed technology to increase their capacity, now quite limited compared to other European giants such as Alstom. The Spanish company is almost two years late in delivering the Avril trains to Renfe. For this delay he could have to assume compensation of 116 million.

In addition to Talgo, Poncela also sits on the board of directors of, among others, the technology company Amper and the Portuguese company Bondalti, belonging to the Mello family, the third richest in Portugal, which this week launched an offer for Ercros .

In this case, the Portuguese group offers 3.6 euros in cash for each share of the chemical group, which values ​​100% at 329.2 million. Bondalti has conditioned its offer on the acceptance of 75% of the capital and obtaining all pertinent authorizations.


The price offered by Bondalti represents a premium of 40.6% over the price at which Ercros shares closed on Monday (2.56 euros) and 51.3% over the weighted average of the month prior to its presentation. On Tuesday, when the takeover came to light, the Spanish company’s shares soared by more than 33%, to 3.42 euros. Ercros confirmed this Thursday to the CNMV that its board “had no prior knowledge of the Offer and that, therefore, it is an Offer not requested or previously agreed upon.”

The board of Ercros, chaired since 1996 by Antoni Zabalza (former senior official with Felipe González), is in the process of appointing a financial advisor and a legal advisor to assist him in this process “in the best fulfillment of his duties and the safeguarding of the interests of the shareholders of the Company. This body “will rule in due course” on the offer, once it is authorized by the CNMV.

Bondalti is a leader in industrial chemistry in Portugal. Iberian leader in chlorine production, it is also present in the water treatment and reuse sector. It has industrial facilities in Estarreja and Sintra (Portugal), Cantabria and La Rioja (Spain), and logistics in Aveiro, Barreiro (Portugal) and Vigo (Spain), operations in Luanda (Angola) and offices in Lisbon (Headquarters), Barcelona , Madrid, Pontevedra and Logroño.

Bondalti belongs to the José de Mello group, a giant in Portugal that in addition to this division (chemical industry) includes highway concessionaires (Brisa), private healthcare (CUF group, leader in this sector there), nursing homes and wineries ( Winestone).

The discreet and large De Mello family (more than 100 members), now in its fourth generation, amassed a good part of its fortune during the Salazar dictatorship. They are attributed a heritage of more than 2.6 billion. They are the third fortune in the country, after the Amorim sisters (shareholders in the oil company Galp and Corticeira Amorim) and the Soares dos Santos, owners of Pingo Doce (the Portuguese Mercadona).

Links with Chega

The Mello saga was linked in 2022 by a report in Sábado magazine to the financing of the far-right Chega party from bank statements from the account of donations to the formation of André Ventura, which in next Sunday’s elections aspires to more than double its results for 2022. In the previous elections it reached 7.18% of the votes and was the third most voted force.

As published by Sábado, in 2021 a Mello was among Chega’s donors along with another of the richest sagas in the country, the Champalimauds. This is Pedro Maria Cunha José Mello, nephew of José de Mello [factótum del grupo] and cousin of Vasco de Mello, president of the José Mello Group.

That businessman, whose brother (Manuel Cunha José de Mello) is a trustee of a foundation chaired by Vasco de Mello, donated on July 14, 2021, two months before the municipal elections of that year, 5,000 euros to Chega, whose Commission National Politics was part of it. It is a private advisory body with members of “civil society” appointed by Ventura, who often repeats as a mantra the phrase that “the people are in charge and not the elites that govern us.”

Bondalti sources explain that Pedro de Mello, “who is mentioned in the Portuguese press, does not hold and has not held any position nor does he participate in the José de Mello Group or Bondalti. The José de Mello Group, as it could not be otherwise, is absolutely apolitical and has been dedicated to business activity for more than 120 years, generating wealth and jobs in the countries in which it operates.”

On February 25, the Portuguese newspaper Público insisted on the connection between the Mello and the Champalimaud with Chega, in an extensive report on the “great family” of the far-right formation that included other well-known names, such as João Maria Bravo, owner of Sodarca, the main supplier of weapons and military equipment to the Portuguese State, or the transport businessman José Paulo Duarte. And other new ones, like João Talone, still president of EdP, the country’s largest electricity company, known in Spain for being a partner of former banker Ángel Corcóstegui in the Magnum venture capital fund.

That same day, Sábado published a text that sources from the Bondalti group assure is a “denial” of the family’s connection to Chega. Sábado clarified that the Mello member who made that donation to Chega, “being part of the family, does not have nor has had anything to do with CUF or its health businesses,” after leftist Mariana Mortágua assured that Ventura serves the interests of their financiers, such as “the Mellos, owners of the private health group, owners of CUF.”

Bondalti employs about 700 people and in 2022 it had a turnover of 595 million. It is the former Companhia União Fabril (CUF), founded by Alfredo Da Silva back in 1898, which later gave rise to the José de Mello group, then dedicated to the production of fertilizers. After diversifying in the following decades into multiple sectors (banking, insurance, tobacco, shipping, healthcare…), the group ended up becoming the largest company in Portugal. The CUF was nationalized after the Carnation Revolution of 1974. After the compensation paid in the eighties, the saga directed its businesses to two separate branches: Nutrinveste (owner of the Sovena oil company) and the José de Mello group.

On the board of this last group there are acquaintances from the Spanish business elite such as the banker António Horta Osorio (formerly of Santander) or Raúl Galamba, current director of BBVA and president of the postal company CTT, privatized in 2013 at the request of the troika and which has among its main shareholders the Champalimauds.

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