Fate of Farnell's bid decided

TOM STEVENSON

City Editor

The fate of Farnell's proposed pounds 1.85bn bid for Premier Industrial of the US was effectively sealed yesterday as the Prudential and Norwich Union made their final deliberations on whether to approve or vote down the deal at Thursday's extraordinary meeting.

Unlike a handful of their peers, neither insititution was prepared to say which way they had voted but both are known to have entertained serious concerns about the financial logic of the takeover. Between them they control almost 10 per cent of Farnell's shares and in a close-run vote, their decisions are likely to be highly influential.

NatWest Securities and BZW, Farnell's financial advisers, were yesterday in the thick of a frantic last minute call-round of investors to ensure they cast their votes this week. With opponents of the deal needing the support of 25 per cent of the votes cast, the company is keen to maximise the numbers of voters and so raise the hurdle the rebels must clear.

The bid for Premier, which would put Farnell on the brink of FT-SE 100 membership, has caused an unprecendented campaign by several large institutions to shoot down the deal. Both Standard Life and Legal & General have gone public over their intention to vote against the takeover, which they consider risky and overpriced.

It is extremely unusual for large funds such as these to make public their opposition to the deals proposed by companies in which they invest. Normally, disapproval is voiced privately or expressed by an investor disposing of its shares in the market.

MAM, Scottish Widows and Flemings have announced their intention to go with Farnell.

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