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Boosey auction saga set for finale

BOOSEY & Hawkes, the classical music publisher and instrument manufacturer, looks set to be sold next month after one of the longest auctions in corporate history.

Carl Fischer, which controls Boosey through a 45 per cent shareholding in the group, yesterday announced that offers for the US publishing group, which is privately owned, had to be submitted by the end of the month. Under Stock Exchange rules, a successful bid for Carl Fischer would also trigger a full bid for Boosey.

Carl Fischer put itself up for sale last April. Since then publishing groups including EMI, Sony and PolyGram have expressed an interest in making an offer, but have failed to agree a deal.

Boosey yesterday revealed that its board, advised by Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, the investment bank, was planning to put a proposal to Carl Fischer's shareholders. The company said the scheme "would provide shareholders with liquidity and shareholders of Boosey & Hawkes with a continuing interest in a listed company."

Richard Holland, Boosey's chief executive, refused to elaborate on the plans. However, the proposal is understood to offer Carl Fischer shareholders an exit from their investment. The group, which has other publishing assets in the US, has consistently insisted that all its assets be sold at the same time.

Boosey said it had been informed that "a number of parties" had been approached by Carl Fischer and asked to submit their final bids by the end of April.

The news lifted Boosey shares 42.5p to 722.5p. Fading hopes of a bid have caused the shares to slip back from their peak of 1082.5p last August.

An offer would finally dispel the cloud of uncertainty which has been hanging over Boosey & Hawkes for the past year. Mr Holland yesterday admitted that the issue had been a "distraction."