(Bloomberg) -- The $10.2 billion takeover of Sweden’s biggest grocery chain has resulted in three people being sentenced to prison for insider trading.
The crimes are connected to one of the largest consumer buyouts of 2021 when ICA Gruppen AB was taken private by a majority owner that comprises an association of 1,500 retailers. The company’s shares surged to a record high when the deal was first made public in November of that year.
Only two of the 18 defendants were found not guilty of insider trading crimes, and the longest prison sentence was for 3 years and 2 months, a district court in Stockholm said on Wednesday. The court also ordered the defendants to pay a total of 16 million kronor ($1.5 million) in damages.
Those found guilty were ICA retailers as well as friends and family members, according to court documents seen by Bloomberg News.
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In March 2022, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority launched an investigation linked to the recommended public takeover offer of ICA, saying that people had been aware of the plans for the acquisition and traded on the information.
“The district court has concluded that the defendants knew about the offer in advance and thus were able to make large profits from their trading,” the court said in the statement.
The grocery chain’s main owner, ICA-handlarnas Forbund — which, together with AMF Pensionsforsakring, took ICA private — wasn’t notified of any charges in the investigation.
While ICA doesn’t have any listed shares, the group has 11.6 billion kronor of bonds outstanding on the public debt markets. The company last sold notes in October, when it priced a 500 million kronor tap of a floating-rate issue due in 2028. Those bonds were little changed at a bid price of 100.4 following the court decision, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“The fact that eight retailers have been convicted of insider trading is of course very serious and affects all of us who work for the ICA brand,” ICA-handlarnas Forbund said in a separate statement, adding that it will review the cases.
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