Battle for Bilton hots up as Slough raises bid by pounds 276m

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THE BID battle for Bilton took another bitter twist yesterday after the property company rejected a pounds 276m increased offer from rival Slough Estates as "wholly inadequate".

The rejection of the bid was accompanied by a fierce row between Bilton and Slough over the real value of the properties owned by Bilton - a small property company controlled by a family trust.

The board of Bilton said that Slough's cash and paper bid of 313.5p per share - a 4.5 per cent increase on last month's original offer - fell "far short of the value" of the company. On Monday Bilton published a long-awaited revaluation of its assets, which showed that its portfolio of mainly industrial properties is worth 343p per share. If the redevelopment potential of the properties was included, the assets' value climbed to 360p.

However, Slough hotly disputed this calculation and claimed that if Bilton had valued its buildings and land in line with the sector's practice, the asset value would have been only 326p, a discount of just 3.8 per cent to Slough's bid.

Slough said that it would not increase its offer unless a counterbidder appeared and backed the bid by spending more than pounds 8.5m to buy 2.8m Bilton shares at 307p, above the 303.5p market price. Slough holds around 12 per cent of Bilton, including acceptances of its earlier bid. Slough shares shed 2p to 280p.

Sir Nigel Mobbs, the Slough chief executive, said: "Bilton shareholders have a clear choice. They can accept Slough's increased offer at a 48 per cent premium to Bilton's pre-bid share price or they can put their trust in Bilton's existing management to deliver comparable value."

But Hugh Free, the Bilton chairman, said that Slough's "ill-conceived attacks cannot change the fact" that Bilton's assets were valued at a premium to the rival's offer.

Shareholders have until 16 November to decide and a number of City analysts believe that the increased offer will be enough for Slough to clinch the deal.