Beazer turns up heat on Trafalgar

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The Independent Online
HOUSEBUILDER Beazer is preparing to take its battle to buy Ideal Homes from Trafalgar House direct to the conglomerate's shareholders in an attempt to trump rival Persimmon for the pounds 150m-plus deal.

Beazer, itself a spin-off from Hanson in 1994, has demanded a copy of Trafalgar House's share register and confirmed that the pounds 100,000-plus cost of a circular to the company's 100,000 shareholders would be money well spent.

"It's an option for us," said Leona Bendall, Beazer's group investment manager: "Trafalgar says this is pique. It's not, it's commercial reality. If you spend so much on postage and paper, then so be it."

The row exploded last Thursday, after Trafalgar House announced exclusive talks with Per simmon aimed at a deal by the end of January at a premium to Ideal Homes' pounds 150.8m net asset value. The sale follows losses of pounds 321m last month from Trafalgar, which also owns the Cunard shipping line, and surprised the market with its speed.

Ideal Homes has been Trafalgar's most profitable operation and would catapult Persimmon into the top flight of UK housebuilders, behind George Wimpey but alongside Barratt.

Beazer has long coveted the firm as a perfect fit in a depressed industry that has seen several large builders change hands in the past year. It says it made an approach in December, via advisers Lazards, but was rebuffed before making a pounds 160m outline offer after hearing that Ideal was indeed for sale.

Capitalised at pounds 480m, against Persimmon's pounds 230m, Beazer also says it can be more flexible on financing than its rival, which will have to ask shareholders for money.

Trafalgar House dismissed Beazer's complaints. "We've made it quite clear, there were a number of approaches and we tested Beazer against the others. We couldn't find a better proposal than Persimmon," said a spokesman.