Heavy hitters fly in for UB bid battle

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The Independent Online
SO-CALLED "swat" teams acting for Burlington Biscuits arrive in London today to plan the US contender's next move in the bid battle for United Biscuits.

Burlington, which groups together Nabisco, the New Jersey-based food giant, and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, the Texan venture capital group, is trailing in the race for UB. Finalrealm, the consortium including Danone, France's top-ranked food company, and Paribas, the French investment bank, announced on Friday that its 265p-a-share offer, valuing the UK company at pounds 1.26bn, had been agreed by the biscuit group's independent directors.

Among the executives at today's strategy meeting is Dean Metropoulos, the Dallas-based food industry veteran who was called upon to help Hicks clinch its pounds 822m purchase of Hillsdown Holdings earlier this year.

One analyst said: "It sounds pretty significant if [Mr Metropoulos] is on a plane to England." He said the fact that Nabisco was also sending over a group of senior representatives could indicate that it was planning to take a more active role in the Burlington consortium, just as Danone has stepped up its involvement in the French bid by raising debt financing for Finalrealm's agreed offer.

UB's shares closed down 2p at 262p yesterday.