Injunction blocks BBA's Holvis bid

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The battle for Swiss paper maker Holvis heightened yesterday when International Paper blocked an approved bid by UK engineering group BBA. The Swiss bourse had given BBA the green light, but a civil court in Basle granted an injunction restraining the British company from exercising an option to acquire Holvis treasury shares.

A spokesman for IP said the court had called for a full hearing on 12 June to review the matter. IP, which acquired 25 per cent of Holvis from Mercury Asset Management in April, also intends to formalise its request to Holvis for a shareholding meeting to discuss the matter.

IP says Holvis has not carried out its responsibility to obtain the best deal for its shareholders by accepting BBA's bid.

BBA offered Sfr500 a share, valuing the deal at pounds 247m for Holvis with a pounds 132m side deal for Fiberweb, Holvis's non-woven division. IP is offering Sfr550 a share, but the deal tied up by BBA means it will get Fiberweb regardless of which deal the Holvis board goes with.

The Holvis board welcomed the Swiss bourse's ruling, which stated that BBA Group's bid met Swiss takeover code requirements and said the court order to prevent sale of treasury shares would not prevent BBA Group from going ahead with its takeover bid.

The bourse has instructed IP to give Holvis and BBA the full text of an agreement with Arjo Wiggins Appleton. IP had agreed to sell the paper distribution arm of Holvis to Arjo if its bid was accepted.

The board of Holvis reaffirmed its recommendation for all shareholders to accept the BBA offer.