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Stake buy to lead to takeover

THE German government will take an 8.7-percent stake in Hypo Real Estate Holding AG as a first step toward gaining full control of the company, the troubled commercial property lender said on Saturday.

The government's bank rescue fund will acquire 20 million new shares in the bank for 60 million euros (US$81 million), Hypo Real Estate said in a statement ?? leaving it with about 8.7 percent of the company.

The firm, which also announced on Saturday that it lost 2.57 billion euros in the fourth quarter and 5.46 billion euros over the whole of 2008, described the stake as "a first step."

It added that "it is a prerequisite for the intended recapitalization of Hypo Real Estate" that the government "gain full control."

Hypo Real Estate has become the most prominent German victim of the financial crisis. It ran into trouble last September after its Dublin-based unit Depfa Bank PLC failed to attract short-term funding.

Huge loan pledge

Since then, the government has shored it up with loan guarantees covering some 87 billion euros. Officials have argued that the government needs to be able to exert direct influence on the bank after intervening repeatedly with guarantees.

Legislation is making its way through parliament that would allow the state to take over the bank fully.

"With the intended long-term liquidity and capital support, for which we are very grateful, the Federal Republic of Germany ... will provide the basis for the continued existence of Hypo Real Estate Group as a going concern," CEO Axel Wieandt said.


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