Amec and McAlpine await Kvaerner move

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UK construction groups Amec and Alfred McAlpine were last night waiting for Norway's Kvaerner to break the deadlock in the three-way takeover battle.

Kvaerner, the offshore construction and shipbuilding group, was expected to decide early next week whether to mount a hostile bid for Amec after failing to reach an agreed deal on Thursday.

Amec yesterday raised the stakes with a proposed two-for-one all-share takeover of McAlpine, which valued the target at about pounds 100m and raised the prospect of further much-needed rationalisation of the construction sector.

McAlpine said the offer could not be valued while Amec's share price was fluctuating in response to Kvaerner's intentions: "The board of Alfred McAlpine will respond to the board of Amec when the outcome of the discussions between Kvaerner and Amec is known."

McAlpine has struggled and its shares have significantly underperformed the market in the 1990s. Representatives of McAlpine family trusts, which control 15 per cent, had called on the management to merge with a larger contractor.

Contested takeovers are a rarity among Scandinavian companies, but the way in which Kvaerner swooped on Amec shares on Thursday, taking its stake to 12 per cent, convinced analysts that a hostile bid was likely. After the dawn share raid Kvaerner approached Amec for talks on a takeover worth pounds 1 a share, an offer that was rejected as grossly undervalued.