Ford ready to get hostile in takeovers

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FORD, the giant car maker, is preparing to take action if two hostile takeover bids involving car companies end in the predators' favour.

The bids involve T Cowie going for Henlys and Hartwell pitching for Trimoco. Success for either would put both in breach of the car company's franchise rules, stipulating that nobody can own more than eight Ford dealerships.

Trimoco owns eight Ford dealerships, Hartwell has four while Cowie has five and Henlys has six. Cowie also owns a 4.5 per cent stake in Trimoco.

In addition, Hartwell will find itself in breach of Ford's agreements whether its bid succeeds or not because it owns more than a rule-breaking 10 per cent of Trimoco.

Ron Farrall, director of Ford's dealer operations, said: 'We have told Hartwell, Trimoco, Henlys and Cowie of the situation. And we have been working with Hartwell to get it sorted.'

Meanwhile, Trimoco yesterday went on the defensive against the 17.5p cash-per-share bid from Hartwell, saying the company, controlled by the Jameel family, contained no premium for control. 'It also denies you the benefit of the future performance of Trimoco,' said Roger Smith, chief executive.

In response, John Wei, chairman and chief executive of Hartwell, said: 'I think the defence document is strange.' He declined to elaborate.

There was also activity in Cowie's pounds 32m bid for Henlys, which closes next Tuesday. Cowie, according to market sources, stepped up the pressure on Henlys by buying 1.1 million shares at 73p each in the market.

The shares, the first Cowie has owned, are equal to about 3 per cent of Henlys. Cowie shares closed 1p higher at 120p.