BET steps up fight against Rentokil

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BET, the industrial services group, has commissioned an independent study that it hopes will rebut a central plank of Rentokil's pounds 1.8bn bid - that there is a 79 per cent overlap between the businesses.

Despite city doubts about the bid's industrial logic - stockbroker James Capel yesterday issued a Rentokil sell note - Clive Thompson's company repeated claims that BET would make a perfect fit.

John Clark, BET's chief executive, argued that less than 30 per cent of the two companies' activities overlapped, and has called in an independent research firm to prove it. The findings will form an important part of BET's defence.

Some analysts have cautioned that Rentokil may be taking on too much, and yesterday Rentokil suffered a set back when James Capel issued a sell note entitled A deal too far? Capel believes that the overlap is more like 40 per cent, and says that Rentokil's cost-cutting opportunities are limited with little room to improve margins.

Rentokil said it was not arguing that 79 per cent of the two businesses' activities were identical, but that they were sufficiently similar for Rentokil to enhance earnings.

Only BET's industrial plant hire business, which accounts for 21 per cent of its turnover, would be unknown to Rentokil. and it is believed that this would be put up for sale should the bid succeed.

Rentokil rejected suggestions that Danish-based Sophus Berendsen, its 52 per cent shareholder, had not been told about the bid until the last minute.