BICC rejects raised pounds 462m Wassall offer

THE BID battle for the cables and construction group BICC intensified last night after it rejected an increased offer worth pounds 462m from Wassall, the aggressive mini-conglomerate which has been stalking the company for six months.

Earlier in the day the BICC board, led by chief executive Alan Jones, had attempted to see off Wassall altogether by announcing the pounds 275m sale of its energy cables business to General Cable Corporation of the US.

But Wassall went back on the offensive in the afternoon, disclosing that it had tabled a written offer to the BICC board last Thursday worth 110p a share. This is a 22 per cent increase on its opening shot last month and a 93 per cent premium to BICC's price on 12 November last year, the day before Wassall's interest became known.

Wassall, which already owns 10 per cent of BICC, said the offer was conditional on shareholders rejecting the sale of the energy cables business and the BICC board recommending its 110p a share bid. Wassall's chief executive, Chris Miller, said that, subject to a recommendation from the board, it could table an offer in a matter of days and urged other BICC shareholders to encourage the board to re-open discussions.

But BICC rejected the increased bid, saying it still failed to reflect the full value and future prospects of the company. Mr Jones also attacked as "mendacious" claims by the Wassall camp that news of its increased offer had been behind the 13 per cent rise in the BICC share price yesterday to 106p.

Mr Jones also described as "palpably ridiculous" Wassall's estimate that once the energy cables division was sold, the remainder of the business, would be worth only 75p a share.

If the sale to General Cable goes through, then BICC, which began life as British Industrial Calender Cables, will have quit the cable business almost entirely.

In the past six months BICC has raised pounds 388m in cash through the sale of its cable interests, enabling it to eliminate group debt. However, there will be an accounting loss of pounds 370m on the energy cables sale, mainly due to a pounds 295m goodwill write-back.