La Caixa affiliate sells stake in Spanish water utility

The bank has offloaded up to 25% of its investment in Aguas de Barcelona in deal with France’s Suez Environnement.

An affiliate of La Caixa, Spain’s largest savings bank, has agreed to sell up to a quarter of its stake in water company Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), according to a statement from the buyer, French water and waste manager Suez Environnement.

The agreement involves the sale of between 20 and 25 percent the company’s shares, currently held by Criteria CaixaCorp, a financial and industrial investment group whose core shareholder is La Caixa.

Under the transaction, Suez, which already holds a 46 percent stake in Agbar, will get full control of the company and will launch a bid to delist the water utility. Criteria and Suez hope to finalise the delisting of Agbar by the first quarter of 2010 and to close the transaction by mid-2010, according to the statement.

Agbar has 12 million customers in Spain and, at 27 percent market share, is the country's leading water utility, according to the statement.

Suez Environnement supplies drinking water to 76 million people. It also provides wastewater treatment services for 44 million people and collects the waste produced by 51 million, operating on five continents, according to its website.

In 2008, the company – 35.4% owned by French utility GDF Suez – reported revenues of €12.4 billion.