BNP prepares to renew offer to SocGen investors

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BANQUE NATIONALE de Paris is planning to renew its offer for Societe Generale if regulators allow it to keep the 36.8 per cent stake it holds as a result of its bid for its rival French banks, SocGen and Paribas.

The move is aimed at mopping up more shares in SocGen in order to dislodge some of the core shareholders which have so far supported SocGen's board, but which BNP believes may be ready to switch sides rather than face a messy battle for control.

Cecei, the French banking regulatory committee headed by Jean-Claude Trichet, the Governor of the Bank of France, is expected to rule on the outcome of the bid on Monday. BNP, which gatecrashed a friendly merger between SocGen and Paribas, has already won outright control of Paribas.

Michel Pebereau, the chairman of BNP, is still pushing for a three- way merger between Paribas, SocGen and BNP.

A price for the new tender offer has not yet been fixed, but it is unlikely to be any higher than the offer which has just lapsed.

The shareholders comprising the noyeaux durs include Alcatel, the telecoms engineer; Peugeot, the car-maker and the drinks group Pernod- Ricard. The group has around 7 per cent of the capital but some 14 per cent of the votes by virtue of a rule common to French companies that those holding shares for more than a year are entitled to double voting rights.