Germans win battle for AAH

BY MAGNUS GRIMOND

The German pharmaceuticals group GEHE yesterday emerged victorious in its £400m battle for control of AAH, Britain's leading drugs wholesaler.

But the bid was thrown into some confusion almost as soon as GEHE declared its offer "unconditional as to acceptances" after winning the backing of owners of close to 65 per cent of the shares.

Despite the clear majority in favour, AAH said it could not advise shareholders to accept the 445p a share offer as GEHE was unable to say its offer was unconditional in all respects until the board of its UK subsidiary had met. Technically, the bidder could allow the offer to lapse if the detailed legal conditions of the bid had not been met, although advisers admitted that the possibility was pretty remote.

As expected, AAH's two big institutional shareholders, PDFM with 17 per cent of the shares, and Schroders, holding between 7 and 8 per cent, tipped the balance by accepting the offer. As a result, GEHE ended up with acceptances for 35.13 per cent of AAH's shares. With the 29.20 per cent acquired during the offer and 0.64 per cent held before, that gave it a total of 64.97 per cent.

Dieter Kammerer, chairman of GEHE, said he was "delighted" that so many shareholders had recognised the merits of the offer. The AAH board said it would be writing to shareholders once the GEHE UK directors had met.

Yesterday's news came as Bilton, a property development company, announced that it had entered into an agreement with AAH Pharmaceuticals to construct a new 69,000 square foot distribution warehouse at Ruislip, Middlesex.

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