CCF shares soar on hopes of higher bid from Dutch

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The Independent Online
SHARES IN Credit Commercial de France, the French bank, soared nearly 5 per cent yesterday in anticipation of the bank being able to extract a higher offer from ING, the Dutch financial services group that tabled a 10bn euro (pounds 6.2bn) offer on Friday.

Bankers said they believe an agreed deal between CCF and ING, which has been playing a leading role in financial services consolidation in Europe, still looks the most likely outcome. Sources said there were informal contacts going on between the two sides despite the high drama at the weekend.

ING had caused a sensation by withdrawing its 137.5 euros a share offer on Sunday night after failing to get the positive response it was hoping for from the CCF board at a hastily convened meeting at 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon. Bankers dismissed the move as a negotiating ploy designed to bounce CCF into a deal on unfavourable terms. The price represented a premium of 15 per cent above Friday's closing price for the bank. The shares rose 6.2 euros to 126 yesterday. One banker said: "It was an attempted bear squeeze."

CCF has said it wants more time to consider the bid and would like to take a fuller look at the offer at its scheduled board meeting on Thursday. Charles de Croisset, CCF's chief executive, insisted yesterday that the bank had not rejected the ING offer and was surprised it had been withdrawn.

ING and its adviser JP Morgan both refused to comment on last weekend's events. However, sources familiar with ING's position insisted its approach was never intended to be hostile and the bank still hopes to secure a friendly deal, particularly as a hostile bid would almost certainly be vetoed by the French government.

Analysts said ING is the only serious bidder for CCF, the smallest of France's private sector banks. The next most likely bidder - Belgium's Kredietbank, which last year bought the 19 per cent stake held in CCF by Mutuelles de Mans, a French insurer, ruled itself out yesterday.