VIENNA, April 17 (Reuters) - Lenders UBS UBSG.S and HSBC HSBA.L have cut their combined stake in AMS AMS.S to below 1% from the 15% they were forced to take after weak demand for the sensor maker's capital increase, a notification to the Swiss stock exchange showed.
AMS issued 190 million new shares via the rights issue, raising 1.75 billion francs ($1.8 billion) to help fund its purchase of German lighting group Osram OSRn.DE, with which it wants to form a global leader in sensors and lights.
Because of low take-up, UBS and HSBC, which along with Bank of America Merrill Lynch BAC.N are providing a 4.4 billion euro bridge loan for the purchase, were left with an AMS stake of 7.7% and 7.2% respectively.
Investors, who have been concerned from the outset that AMS might overstretch itself with the planned takeover, reacted with relief to Friday's news, boosting AMS shares as much as 11.2% to 10.34 Swiss francs ($10.67).
The European technology index .SX8P was up around 3% at 1245 GMT.
Analysts have said a combination of the two firms could makes sense. AMS is known for its state-of-the-art optical sensors, used for facial recognition in smartphones, and has long been keen on diversifying into applications for the auto industry.
Osram, the world's leading producer of car headlamps, could open that door.
However, AMS's much smaller size, its dependence on Apple AAPL.O, the billions of debt it took on to finance the deal, and Osram's badly performing business have also triggered scepticism towards the tie-up.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has hit many industries, and in particular the car sector, has added to the concerns.
The Swiss stock exchange notification did not say at what price UBS and HSBC had managed to reduce their stake. For the rights issue, AMS demanded 9.20 francs per share.
($1 = 0.9693 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Alexander Huebner; Writing by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Jan Harvey)
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