NewsCzech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky to buy Royal Mail for £3.5bn

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky to buy Royal Mail for £3.5bn

Daniel Kretinsky may take over Royal Mail
Daniel Kretinsky may take over Royal Mail
Images source: © Getty Images | Bloomberg
Robert Kędzierski

29 June 2024 18:16

Daniel Kretinsky, often dubbed the "Czech Sphinx" by the UK media, is on the brink of making history. He is poised to acquire Royal Mail, the British postal service, for a staggering £3.5 billion. This 48-year-old entrepreneur and lawyer is fast becoming one of the most influential businessmen in Central and Eastern Europe.

His name is gaining prominence across Europe. Daniel Kretinsky, a Czech entrepreneur with an estimated fortune of £6 billion, may soon own a symbol of British heritage - Royal Mail. The 500-year-old organisation is up for grabs as the company’s board issued a favourable opinion.

The Czech "Sphinx" eyes a British icon

Who is this relatively unknown businessman? Daniel Kretinsky amassed his fortune mainly in the energy sector. He owns Energeticky Prumyslovy Holding (EPH), which has assets in numerous European countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the Netherlands, and the UK. One of his critical assets is Eustream, which transports Russian gas through Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The energy crisis of 2022 resulted in a record profit of £4 billion for EPH.

Kretinsky's ambitions extend well beyond the energy sector. The Czech billionaire has been systematically expanding his empire recently, investing in various European industries. His portfolio includes stakes in retail chains, media, and sports clubs.

The acquisition of Royal Mail is no coincidence. Kretinsky is already a significant shareholder in Royal Mail, holding 27% of the parent company, International Distribution Services (IDS). His offer to take over the entire company has met with board approval, although the transaction will still undergo scrutiny for national security reasons.

Kretinsky has pledged his "utmost respect for the history and tradition of Royal Mail" and is aware of the immense responsibility of owning this iconic company. He has committed to maintaining essential public services, including delivering first-class mail six days a week at a uniform price and keeping the brand and British headquarters for at least five years.

Daniel Kretinsky: Investing across the UK, France, and Poland

In addition to Royal Mail, Kretinsky holds a 10% stake in the supermarket chain Sainsbury's and a 27% stake in the football club West Ham United in the UK. He also owns one of the most expensive properties in London—the 15-room Heath Hall in Hampstead, which he purchased for £65 million in 2015.

On the European continent, Kretinsky has shares in the German retail group Metro AG, which manages the Makro store chain in Poland. In France, he has invested in the television group TF1, the newspaper "Le Monde", and the magazine "Elle". He recently finalised the acquisition of one of France's largest retailers - Group Casino, making him one of the country's largest employers.

Kretinsky is also known for his investments in luxury real estate. In addition to the aforementioned Heath Hall in London, he owns 25% of the exclusive Velaa resort in the Maldives. He also purchased a townhouse near the Elysee Palace in Paris for over £16 million.

Daniel Kretinsky: A prominent investor in the Czech Republic

In his native Czech Republic, Kretinsky owns the football club Sparta Prague, which he regards as "something between a mission and a lifestyle". Despite the club's financial losses over the years, Kretinsky has continued to invest in it, planning to build a new stadium with 35,000 seats.

Kretinsky's modus operandi sets him apart from other Central European business magnates. His international acquisitions have granted him a status that few regional businessmen have achieved. Kretinsky is known for his analytical approach to transactions, though his emotional involvement is more evident in the case of Sparta Prague.

Kretinsky's plans regarding Royal Mail have attracted the interest of the British government. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has announced a review of the offer for national security reasons, though he suggested that he would not oppose the transaction. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has announced that "Royal Mail is as British as it gets, and Labour will take the necessary steps to safeguard its undeniable identity and place in public life," should they win the election.

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