Rentokil's majority shareholder, Sophus Berendsen, yesterday moved to kill speculation about its long-term commitment to the company should Rentokil's pounds 1.9bn takeover of BET succeed.
The Danish company, whose 51.7 per cent stake in Rentokil would be diluted to about 35 per cent after a takeover, said it would not sell its holding for at least five years.
Berendsen's commitment to Rentokil was called into question over the weekend after damaging reports that the Danish company's chief executive, Hans Werdelin, wanted to reduce the stake to 25 per cent.
Sophus had previously undertaken to remain "a long-term shareholder" and had said it would keep its shares for at least one year.
But in a statement to the Copenhagen stock exchange yesterday, Mr Werdelin said: "In view of continued speculation as to Sophus Berendsen's long- term commitment to its Rentokil shareholding, the board confirms its previous statement that it intends to remain as a long-term shareholder in Rentokil. In particular Sophus is happy to undertake that it will not sell Rentokil shares for at least five years."
BET has sought to exploit a potential rift between the rival business services company and Berendsen as part of its first defence document, posted to shareholders on Sunday night. BET forecast a dividend of 5.1p for the year to 30 March, a 27.5 per cent rise over the previous year, and said a profits forecast would be made "in due course". BET repeated that there was only a 25 per cent overlap between the two businesses. "There appears to be no strategic rationale for combining the business," the company said.
BET shares were down 1.5p to 193p, while Rentokil slipped 5p to 343p on a difficult day for the whole stock market.