C&J Clark close to deciding which offer to recommend: Three bidders for shoe manufacturer

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C&J CLARK, Britain's second-biggest shoemaker, is expected to announce within days which - if any - of three offers for the company its board will recommend to shareholders. The board met yesterday to discuss the bids from Berisford International, FII Group and a consortium led by Electra Investment Trust.

Directors and shareholders have been divided over the future of the private company, which is 70 per cent-owned by members of the extended Clark family. A company spokesman said that yesterday's board meeting was expected to go on until the evening, but that no announcement would be made until the company had written to shareholders.

Berisford, the former commodities group that is now virtually a shell, is believed to have made the highest bid, valuing Clark at pounds 160m. The offer is paper-based with a cash alternative.

A consortium of institutional shareholders led by Electra is understood to have bid about pounds 154m. FII Group is believed to have offered about pounds 150m and is fancied because of its appeal as another shoe manufacturing company.

All three bidders have made their offers conditional on having a clear run at the company with exclusive rights to the information needed for due diligence.

The decision to invite offers for the company arose from a split among family shareholders about the direction of Clark, and complaints about falling profits and dividends.