Comment: SHV holds all the cards in Calor deal

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The Independent Online
SHV holds all the cards in Calor deal

Being a minority shareholder is a far from happy business, as SHV's pounds 245m move on the stake it does not own in Calor illustrates. The private Dutch group has been playing a canny game since it galloped up to Calor as a white knight to fend off the unwanted attentions of the Barclay Brothers in the 1980s. Without forking out a full takeover price, it has managed to exercise effective management control over Britain's biggest distributor of bottled gas for around 10 years.

First by buying the Barclays' stake, then through the mechanism of a tender offer and later by swapping assets and buying tiny stakes every year, SHV has, by a process of attrition, amassed its current holding of 51.6 per cent. It has been a long-term strategy, worthy of its investment policy elsewhere - some of the sums Calor has invested in conjunction with SHV in gas businesses in places like Brazil and South-east Asia may not see decent returns until the next century.

The price now being offered to outside shareholders is hardly generous - 40p a share of it is coming from Calor's own money. But with no prospect of a rival bidder, SHV holds all the cards.

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