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SocGen makes rights offer

Paris, Feb. 11 (Reuters): Societe Generale, the French bank reeling from a rogue trading scandal, launched a rights issue at a steep discount today. The bank aims to raise 5.5 billion euros ($7.97 billion) to bolster its balancesheet.

The one-for-four rights issue at 47.50 euros per share is 38.9 per cent below Friday’s closing price and dilutes the share capital by some 20 per cent.

SocGen revealed plans for the capital increase on January 24 when it unveiled 4.9 billion euros of rogue trading losses. Jerome Kerviel, the trader at the heart of the scandal, was jailed on Friday.

The French bank’s losses related to the US sub-prime crisis totalled 2.6 billion euros, including 600 million euros in write-downs that were not previously detailed.

The cash call discount is steeper than some market participants expected, with fund managers reported last week to be seeking a discount up to 30 per cent.

“The price is very low. The feedback from the market cannot have been very encouraging. As they can’t miss this deal they decided to strike very low,” said Landsbanki Kepler banking analyst Pierre Flabbee.

A SocGen official said the discount was designed to guarantee that the rights issue would be a success against the current market volatility.

“It’s a very, very low price. We were not expecting such a discount. It reflects the lack of demand in the market,” said a Paris-based share dealer at a foreign bank.

The discount compares with the 15.5 per cent offered by rival BNP Paribas when it raised the same amount of funds to help finance the takeover of Italian bank BNL in March 2006.

“It’s priced to go — they needed to get this out of the door, and that’s a decent discount, even more than the press was indicating over the weekend,” said a trader in London.

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