CRH swoops on Ibstock in pounds 326m deal

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CRH, the Irish building materials group, yesterday rode to the rescue of Ibstock by launching a pounds 326m takeover swoop which saw it snap up more than 50 per cent of the brick manufacturer's shares in the market.

The audacious deal, orchestrated behind closed doors yesterday and only announced after the stock market had closed, marks a victory for Ibstock's chief executive Philip Mengel over Wienerberger Baustoffindustrie, the Austrian group which had built up a 30 per cent shareholding in Ibstock.

CRH is offering 70p for each Ibstock share, valuing the entire group at pounds 326.4m. However, the deal is a foregone conclusion because the Irish group already controls 50.7 per cent of Ibstock's share capital.

CRH acquired the shares after Cazenove, the stockbroker, yesterday approached Ibstock's leading shareholders and told them an unnamed bidder was ready to offer 70p per share if it could be sure of securing a majority stake. The Takeover Panel had approved the move, which is highly unusual, before the approaches were made.

Ibstock has secretly been trying to find a friendly buyer for more than two months after Wienerberger bought its stake from Brierley Investments, the New Zealand investment group, at a share price of 66p.

Wienerberger subsequently attempted to secure a seat on Ibstock's board. But Philip Mengel, the company's chief executive, resisted. "We felt that developing a special relationship with one shareholder would not be in the interests of other shareholders," he said.

"They were unwilling to come forward with a full offer and we felt it was untenable that only one shareholder should realise value. So the board focused on realising value for all shareholders."

After contacting several potential companies Ibstock selected CRH as its preferred bidder. However, the Irish group, which has a legendary aversion to contested takeovers, was reluctant to bid if it could not be sure of securing control.

Don Godson, CRH's chief executive, said: "Ibstock provides CRH with leading positions in clay products in Britain and the US and forms a base for further development in these regions."