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Gulf wins bid battle for Clyde Petroleum

Norwich Union's decision to accept Gulf Canada's 120p-a-share offer for its 8 per cent stake in Clyde Petroleum sealed the British oil explorer's fate yesterday. It was enough to secure 51.4 per cent of Clyde's shares for the hostile bidder in the latest of a run of extremely narrow bid victories.

The bid split Clyde's five largest shareholders, who between them controlled more than half the company's shares. As well as Norwich Union, Wittingtons, with 5 per cent, accepted the bid as did Capital Group of the US for some of its 10 per cent holding. Only Schroders (20 per cent) and Prudential (4 per cent) among the big shareholders stuck by Clyde's management.

JP Bryan, chief executive of Gulf, said yesterday: "We are of course most pleased with the outcome but remain respectful of the efforts by Clyde's management to do what they considered best for their shareholders."

Mr Bryan is expected to ask Roy Franklin, Clyde's well-regarded chief executive, to remain with the company. He said: "We look forward to working with the management and employees of Clyde to grow the business in the UK and around the world."

Gulf's narrow victory ends one of the most bitterly fought of recent hostile bids that saw the two sides locked in an acrimonious struggle to persuade shareholders of the merits of their often arcane arguments about Clyde's real value.

Gulf initially offered 105p a share, putting a price tag of pounds 432m on Clyde, but had to increase the offer to 120p, or pounds 500m, to secure victory.