Billionaire Watsa Now Second-Biggest Shareholder in Stelco

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Prem Watsa’s investment company, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., has taken an almost 14 percent stake Stelco Holdings Inc., even as Canada and the U.S. remain embroiled in a battle over steel and aluminum tariffs.

Fairfax acquired 12.2 million shares in the Hamilton, Ont.-based steel manufacturer representing about 13.7 percent stake, the company said in a statement Monday. It paid C$20.50 per share for a total cost of about C$250 million ($190 million). The shares rose 3.5 percent to C$20.35 at 11:29 a.m. in Toronto.

Toronto-based Fairfax has assets around the world, with Watsa particularly enthused by opportunities in India. In April, he said the insurance and investment company was stockpiling cash as it looked for cheap stocks. At the time, he said Canada would have a hard time competing for capital following massive U.S. tax cuts.

Costs associated with steel tariffs between the U.S. and Canada are expected to fall in the fourth quarter, Stelco’s Chief Executive Officer Alan Kestenbaum said during the earnings call last week. The company expects higher shipments, stable pricing and higher earnings in the quarter after reporting third quarter profit that beat analysts’ expectations.

Fairfax purchased the shares from Bedrock Industries, which is owned by U.S.-based Lindsay Goldberg LLC, and run by Kestenbaum. That pushes Bedrock’s stake in Stelco to about 46.4 percent from 60.1 percent and makes Fairfax the second-largest shareholder, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We are delighted to welcome Fairfax as a similarly-minded, long-term strategic investor alongside Lindsay Goldberg,” Kestenbaum said in a statement issued by Bedrock.

While Canada and the U.S. reached a deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, the metals tariffs are slated to be dealt with separately and the sides remain at odds.

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