MAM raises its stake in the bid battle for Redland

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The Independent Online
Mercury Asset Management, which has played a pivotal role in some of the UK's most important takeovers in recent years, yesterday raised its stake in Redland, the building materials group subject to a hostile pounds 1.7bn bid from the French building group Lafarge.

In a market dominated by heavy selling of Redland's shares, MAM bought 256,000 shares mainly at 330p, a full 10p above Lafarge's cash offer price. The deal takes MAM's shareholding in Redland to 3.13 per cent, suggesting it is confident of a higher offer from Lafarge or a white knight bid. Redland's shares added another 2p to close at 338.5p.

Meanwhile, Lafarge was preparing to put out its offer document, hinting yesterday that the paperwork could be out within a week.

A fast response would put pressure on Redland management, which was last night locked in board meetings preparing a defence likely to include some kind of break up of the company.

Sellers of the shares yesterday included Morgan Grenfell, which sold a hefty 1.75 million between 320p and 332p, cutting its stake to 4.88 per cent; Morgan Stanley Asset Management, which sold 103,400, taking its stake to 2.92 per cent and Sunlife Investment Management, which sold 213,000 at 330p leaving it with 1.47 per cent.

Speculation that Hanson or RMC might be tempted to bid for Redland was squashed yesterday by building analysts. More likely names in the frame, they said, were Pioneer, the Australian group; Swiss builder Holderbank and Austria's Weinerberger.