Bill Gates buys 6% of FCC

The move by the US billionaire, now the second-largest shareholder in FCC, comes as the Spanish builder forges ahead with its restructuring plans.

Funds controlled by Bill Gates have bought a 6 percent stake in FCC, according to a filing on the Spanish Stock Exchange.

The acquisition was priced at €14.86 per share – last Friday’s closing price – totalling around €114 million. The shares were previously held by the Spanish construction group as treasury stock.

The transaction makes the co-founder of Microsoft the second-largest shareholder in FCC. Spanish philanthropist Esther Koplowitz, also chairwoman of the group, remains in front with a 53.9 percent stake.

Shares in the group jumped almost 10 percent to €17.20 on the news, before losing around 4 percent today. They are now worth more than double their January price, which stood at around €7 a share.

Gates’ move represents a vote of confidence for FCC, which is undergoing a stringent restructuring phase after tumultuous years in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The collapse of Spain’s construction boom precipitated the downfall of the country’s building groups, which saw liquidity and demand drastically tighten after 2008.

FCC, which reported a €1 billion loss last year, has since appointed a new chief executive to oversee efforts aimed at reducing its €7.9 billion debt pile. This has involved selling chunks of non-core assets as well as refinancing part of the existing debt, €5 billion of which is starting to mature next year.

FCC sold 49 percent of Czech water company SmVak, worth €97 million, to Japanese conglomerate Mitsui last July.

It then divested the energy unit of Alpine, its Austrian arm, to turnaround specialist firm Triton Partners the following month for around €100 million. The rest of the division had gone into bankruptcy at the end of June.