Arthur Andersen in line for Ferranti job

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ARTHUR ANDERSEN, the accountancy firm, has been lined up as receiver to the Ferranti defence electronics company if shareholders reject GEC's pounds 10m offer.

A majority of Ferranti's bankers are understood to have rejected putting the company into administration, something rebel shareholders are calling for as an alternative to a takeover or receivership.

John Katz, of the Ferranti Shareholders' Association, said administration should have been mentioned in GEC's offer document.

GEC said it will let its offer lapse unless it is backed by holders of 90 per cent of the shares. If the vote, on 8 December, is against the offer, GEC will make up its mind within two weeks.

Ferranti's 15 banks, which include National Westminster, Barclays and UBS, asked Andersen to draw up a contingency plan should the offer fail. This is understood to include offering parts of Ferranti to GEC, which, because of due diligence already carried out, knows Ferranti inside out.

The banks, owed pounds 110m, were informally approached about their willingness to support an administration order, which would allow Ferranti to be run as a going concern rather than be wound up. The majority, if not all, rejected it.

Mr Katz yesterday called on Ferranti and its banks to 'bring into the public domain any written information and opinion on administration. Administration should have been mentioned in GEC's offer document, even by way of exclusion.' He has contacted the Takeover Panel about the matter, and also about delays in his requests for information from GEC's adviser, SG Warburg. He wants details about Ferranti's intangible assets - such as intellectual rights and new systems - which he says are worth at least pounds 50m and could make the company more valuable.

Eugene Anderson, Ferranti's chairman, said shareholders were being misled by claims that Ferranti's tax losses and pension fund made it worth more. Inland Revenue rules meant neither would be of benefit to GEC.