Nõgene: LHV loan offer to Tallink highway robbery

CEO of Tallink Paavi Nõgene on
CEO of Tallink Paavi Nõgene on "Esimene stuudio". Source: ERR

CEO of Baltic Sea shipper Tallink Paavo Nõgene told ETV's "Esimene stuudio" that the loan offer LHV made to Tallink was extortionate and contrary to any and all business ethics.

Nõgene said that Tallink has requested and filed an application for a liquidity loan from the state to the tune of €150 million for a period of three years. "Tallink sees no problem here; if the state says it wants to be a strategic investor in the company, it is definitely possible to some extent. However, at the moment, the topic of discussion is a liquidity loan that needs to precede any other decisions," Nõgene said.

Nõgene said that LHV, in cooperation with Novalpina Capital, an independent private equity firm, made a loan offer to Tallink. "We are not considering it. And we will definitely not be borrowing from them," Nõgene said regarding the company's reaction.

"LHV is trying to make it look like a noble and generous offer. I would point out in the context of a lot of other proposals that would be harmful for our shareholders that LHV and Novalpina Capital wanted €7 million just for signing the contract," the CEO said.

"The remaining conditions are contrary to any and all business ethics and clearly clash with Estonia's strategic interests, the interests of Tallink's 11,000 shareholders and people who have assets in the pension funds of other banks if they have invested in Tallink," he added.

"The offer clearly suggested that the people who made it cannot even be negotiated with, which is what we told them."

"Someone wanted access to the assets of Tallink's 11,000 shareholders in a rather impudent fashion and it was greatly surprising that that someone was LHV Bank," Nõgene said.

He added that the reputation of LHV has been greatly damaged by this and could use a good scrubbing.

"Going after shareholders' assets in such an extortionate manner and dressing it up as a noble and generous proposal is just low," Nõgene said indignantly.

Ain Hanschmidt, CEO of Tallink's owner Infortar, told ERR that he had counted on such "offers" appearing under the circumstances. "In this case, we cannot possibly accept it as it in no way corresponds to the interests of the company and its shareholders," he said.

Nõgene: Tallink not in danger of going bankrupt

Paavo Nõgene said Tallink has consulted with several European banks, including those in Estonia, in connection with the emergency situation, while it has not asked for a loan from LHV in those terms.

He said he is glad the government has understood that Tallink is of strategic importance for Estonia and assured that the shipping company is not in danger of going bankrupt. "Tallink is not facing bankruptcy, everything is alright, while the company has a liquidity problem caused by the economic standstill," Nõgene explained.

He said that Tallink will continue paying taxes if the liquidity problem is solved over the next three years. "Tallink paid €83 million in taxes last year."

Nõgene emphasized that Tallink has not asked for a nonrefundable subsidy. "We want a loan and we will pay it back with interest," the CEO promised.

He said that Tallink's book value is €1.23 per share. "No one knows the market value because most of Tallink's shares are not for sale," Nõgene said.

LHV pension funds made a financing offer of €200 million to Tallink

CEO of fund manager LHV Varahaldus Vahur Vallistu said the bank's pension funds that represent 180,000 savers and a private capital fund made a €200 million financing offer to Tallink, BNS reported.

Vallistu described it as an alternative to using taxpayer money.

Nõgene on Bolt: the more Estonian companies survive the crisis, the better

Host Mirko Ojakivi asked whether Nõgene understands the fierce public debate over whether to grant a loan to Bolt.

"I don't. The main message here should be that the more Estonian companies, the more major Estonian companies with their headquarters here survive, the better for Estonia," the executive said.

Ride-hailing and courier services company Bolt the turnover of which has fallen by over 85 percent due to the coronavirus crisis has asked the state for help with borrowing €50 million.

Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said Bolt does not meet the criteria for state aid.

Linnahall project on standby

Nõgene said that plans for the Linnahall building have been put on ice.

"It is on standby. We have more important and urgent matters to attend to. Today, we need to put Tallink back on track, make sure our 7,300 employees and their families and 6,800 companies working with Tallink feel safe now and in the future. Ensure Tallink's viability and ability to help the Estonian economy develop," Nõgene said.

Tallink Grupp, Infortar and the city of Tallinn signed an agreement on February 26 to create a joint company for the development of Linnahall that would bring to the area a new passenger port, conference center, concert hall, hotel and shopping center. The cost of renovating the grand venue was estimated at €300 million.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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