Hony Capital Adds to Stake in Australia's Santos

By Robb M. StewartFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Private-equity firm Hony Capital has snapped up more shares in Santos Ltd. (STO.AU), strengthening the hold it has on the Australian oil-and-gas producer together with Chinese gas distributor ENN Group Co.

Santos on Thursday said Hony had bought another 48 million shares, which represents a 2.3% interest in the company, after the market closed on Wednesday at a 6% premium to the closing price.

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The purchase lifted the collective stake held by Hony, ENN and affiliates to 15.1%.

Hony and ENN at the start of the month said they had signed an agreement to act in concert as Santos shareholders when it came to voting and other decisions. No mention was made of their intentions.

Last November, Hony bought the equivalent of an about 2.25% stake in Santos, roughly eight months after it sold an 11.7% stake that it had built up to ENN's ENN Ecological Holdings Co. (600803.SH) subsidiary. That positioned ENN, one of China's largest private energy companies, as the largest single shareholder in the Australian company.

A spokeswoman for Hony declined to comment Thursday on the acquisition of the shares or the companies' plans.

Adelaide-based Santos's stock fell sharply with the slump in oil prices in 2014, from levels above A$13 a share, and have struggled to recover as the company has focused on lightening a debt pile built up with big investments in new energy projects, including the GLNG gas-export venture in eastern Australia. The shares were steady Thursday at A$3.63, down almost 10% so far in 2017.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 04, 2017 00:37 ET (04:37 GMT)