Criteria Caixa has been building one of its long-term stock market shares with Telefónica for five years, classified as part of its strategic portfolio. Without haste but without pause, the financial holding of the La Caixa Banking Foundation has come to hold a shareholding package in the operator that already exceeds 2.3% of the capital after the latest purchases of shares that it has made during the last week and the effect of the capital reduction in April.
According to CNMV records, Criteria acquired 540,000 shares at 3.9 euros each between May 12 and 16 after investing 2 million euros. In this way, it raises its investment so far in 2023 above 20 million euros. The firm chaired by Isidre Fainé resumes purchases at Telefónica more than a month after its last operations. In any case, the activity is much lower than that of 2022, when it allocated more than 180 million to reinforce its position in the teleco.
After exceeding 2.3% and close to 2.4%, Criteria is giving the ‘sorpasso’ to the aggregate position of Vanguard Group, the US index fund manager, according to data recorded at the end of April by Morningstar. The holding company now occupies fourth place in the Telefónica shareholder ranking, only surpassed by BBVA (4.88%) and the American manager Blackrock (4.86%).
In third place is Caixabank (3.5%), a bank that is also run by the State through the FROB and by Criteria Caixa with just over 30% of the shares. Its percentage in Telefónica has been declining in recent years and it is now only a little more than one point above the holding company. In September 2022, the entity chaired by José Ignacio Goirigolzarri sold 1% of the operator’s capital through a new operation with financial derivatives.
The increase in Criteria’s stake also occurs, as for the rest of the shareholders, due to the effect of the capital reduction that occurred a month ago. Telefónica redeemed and removed from circulation 24.8 million shares, equivalent to 0.43% of ownership and valued at around 100 million euros at current prices. Now its total number of shares is 5.750 million.
Criteria, with around 132 million titles in its portfolio, has seen its share of Telefónica’s capital rise slightly after the redemption. The holding’s shares are now worth around 520 million euros, according to its listing on the stock market. The estimated investment from the beginning of the process to become a major shareholder rises to 750 million euros.
The estimated average price of these acquisitions is above 5.6 euros, without taking into account the adjustments for the collection of dividends, both in cash and in the form of shares, that Criteria has received for more than five years when it declared its first shopping. His position is still on theoretical handicaps.
In 2017, Criteria declared purchases for 0.13% of the capital of Telefónica for 55 million euros. In 2018 he bought an additional percentage of 1% for 400 million when the price easily exceeds 7 euros per share on the stock market. The subsequent fall of the stock trader dampened his appetite. In fact, between 2019, 2020 and 2021 he barely added 0.2% to that percentage in his locker.
But in 2022, on the other hand, the holding of La Caixa shot up its investment again after allocating around 190 million in more titles and raised its stake from 1.2% to 2.2% after another capital reduction and the collection in dividend shares. In the first 150 days of 2023, the investment figure has just exceeded 20 million after recurring purchases at prices ranging between 3.5 and 4 euros.
Telefónica forms part of Criteria Caixa’s ‘strategic portfolio’, which is mainly made up of significant holdings in energy, telecommunications and banking companies. The difference compared to the rest of its investments is due to the fact that Criteria can exercise more active management in them, is part of their governance and influences their strategy through voting at their meetings, according to the firm. This select group also includes CaixaBank (32.24%), Naturgy (26.71%), The Bank of East Asia (18.97%), Grupo Financiero Inbursa (9.10%) and Cellnex (4.36% ).
In financial year 2022, Telefónica distributed dividends worth €0.298 per share, which followed an income of €29 million for Criteria. “Of that amount, 18 million euros were delivered in cash and accounted for against the accounting cost of Criteria’s stake in Telefónica, while the remaining 11 million euros were granted in the form of shares,” according to its financial information. the holding itself. In 2021, with fewer shares in the portfolio, Criteria received 24 million euros from the operator.