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Bank takes major stake in Liontamer

Four years after setting up Liontamer and raising more than $200 million in funds, its owners have sold a 51% stake of their business to a large European bank.

Sunday, May 27th 2007, 8:00AM

by Philip Macalister

The new shareholder is KBC Asset Management, part of a Belgium-headquartered bank which is the 11th largest bank in Europe. It has significant expertise in the making and distribution of capital protected funds.

While Laetitia Peterson and Janine Starks have sold a majority interest they will retain management control of Liontamer.

“As far as we are concerned we are still in control,” Starks says.

She says advisers and investors will benefit from having KBC’s expertise behind Liontamer. One of the key benefits is that because of its size and presence in the capital protected markets it can get top pricing for new funds.

Secondly the bank has been hugely successful in promoting these sorts of products to investors.

Starks says that last year Belgian fund managers sold investors the equivalent of $39 billion worth of capital protected investments in Belgium which has a population of around 10 million. KBC has around 34.3% market share for managed funds in its home market and 55% market share for structured products.

The third benefit for Liontamer is that KBC has some interesting, niche, actively managed share funds which could be brought to the New Zealand market.

This is an area of expansion for Liontamer.

"Liontamer are very keen to begin distributing open-ended funds alongside their capital protected offering. KBC's ability to deliver high quality specialist funds such as those in the areas of water, alternative energy and climate change will excite a market which is in tune with the importance of natural resources, sustainability and a clean-green culture," KBC says.

Australia is another area of expansion for the business. Currently Liontamer is just signing off its licence in Australia, plus it plans to operate as a “responsible entity” in that market. The acquitistion will give KBC and entry point into this market.

Starks says Liontamer hadn’t put the for sale sign up.

Rather Liontamer, particularly managing director Peterson (who is Belgian) had worked with KBC over the years, and the bank simply made an approach. The price paid for the shares is undisclosed.

KBC have a market cap of 36 billion Euros (NZ$66 billion) and are listed on the Euronext Brussels and the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. They operate across Europe and Asia with 11 million customers and 50,000 employees.

Peterson and Starks have options to sell more shares to KBC over time.

“The minimum period of time we can be here is five years,” Starks says.

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