Blenheim walks away from merger talks

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The Independent Online
Blenheim Group, the exhibitions company at the centre of takeover speculation for almost three months, dramatically called off all merger talks yesterday saying it had received no proposals that it could recommend to shareholders.

Though both United News & Media and Reed Elsevier were understood to have made offers, neither was at the right price.

The announcement ends weeks of manoeuvring as the two media giants stalked Blenheim which has given its shareholders a bumpy ride in recent years.

United News & Media said last month that it had suspended takeover talks until more detailed financial information was available. However, it is understood that discussions were still continuing. Reed Elsevier, which entered the fray after United, was reported to be biding its time hoping Blenheim chairman Neville Buch would drop the asking price. This was said to be upwards of 490p per share which would have valued the company at around pounds 500m.

Any deal would need to have been agreed as 40 per cent of Blenheim's shares are controlled by the directors and French water company Companie Generale des Euax.

Yesterday's announcement was made minutes after the Stock Exchange had closed yesterday giving the shares no time to react. However, the shares are expected to plunge when trading starts on Monday. They closed 16p down yesterday at 458p.

The termination of merger talks will be a blow to shareholders who have stayed with Blenheim during a turbulent few years. After being one of the glamour stocks of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the shares plunged after a series of profits warnings and broker downgrades. As recently as February the shares were languishing at 250p. But they soared to 458p in June as takeover talk swirled.

Blenheim also issued a trading statement saying its performance during the first half was strong. The interim results for the six months to June are due on 2 October.

Blenheim organises more than 200 shows in 62 countries. A move from United would have been its first significant move after its merger with Lord Hollick's MAI group in April.

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