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Mapfre buys 18.3 million Middlesea shares

The Spanish insurance company Mapfre Internacional S.A. this morning purchased 18.3 million Middlesea Insurance plc shares from Munich Re at a price of 63c per share via a special trade affected on the Malta Stock Exchange.

The agreed price level between the two international insurance companies is marginally above the net asset value per share of Middlesea Insurance plc as at December 31.

Details of this transaction first emerged on April 29 when Middlesea had revealed that Mapfre Internacional S.A. was seeking regulatory approval to acquire the 19.9 per cent shareholding of Middlesea held by Munich Re.

Approval for this trade was granted by the Malta Financial Services Authority on June 17. Following this transaction, Mapfre Internacional S.A. became the majority shareholder in Middlesea with a shareholding of 50.98 per cent. As such, in terms of Chapter 11 of the Listing Rules, Mapfre is obliged to launch a takeover bid for the remaining shares of Middlesea in the coming days.

Bank of Valletta plc, which holds a 31.08 per cent shareholding in Middlesea, has already announced it will maintain its shareholding in Middlesea.

Elsewhere in the equity market, gains in four of the six active equities helped the MSE Share Index edge marginally higher to close the week at 3,223.711 points. Volumes across the equity market remained subdued today possibly as investors awaited the publication of the half-year financial results of HSBC Bank Malta plc which were published shortly after the close of the trading session.

During the first six months of the year, HSBC Bank Malta plc generated a pre-tax profit of €50.4 million representing a 19 per cent increase from the first half of 2010.

The level of profits generated in the first half of 2011 is the highest interim profitability over the past four years.

HSBC declared a gross interim dividend of 8c2 per share (equivalent to 5c3 net of tax) to those shareholders as at close of trading next Friday. The interim dividend is 3.8 per cent higher than the 2010 half-year dividend as the dividend payout ratio was reduced from 55 per cent to 48 per cent. HSBC's equity failed to register any trades on the market today with bidders placed above the last trade price of €2.80 and lowest offers at the €2.95 level.

The strongest performer of the day was RS2 Software plc. The equity of the IT company advanced by 3.8 per cent to a fresh 2011 high of 55c on volumes of 27,500 shares. RS2 has yet to announce the date of the board meeting scheduled to approve the publication of the interim financial results.

The share price of GO plc managed to recover from the losses of previous days as the equity rose by 3.2 per cent to €1.30 on a single trade of 2,500 shares.

Meanwhile, Lombard Bank Malta plc only edged minimally higher to €2.56,5 on volumes of 4,200 shares.

Among the other positive performers of the day was Malta International Airport plc which gained two per cent to €1.59.

Earlier this week MIA announced an 11.4 per cent rise in half-year profits to €3.96 million and the company declared the payment of an unchanged interim dividend of 3c per share to those shareholders as at close of trading next Wednesday.

Bank of Valletta plc held on to yesterday's gains as a further 6,253 shares traded at the €2.59 level while the third largest cap International Hotel Investments plc edged 1.2 per cent lower to 81c after dropping to an intra-day low of 80c.

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