Asia growth 'left out' of Lafarge's bid for BCI

Blue Circle Industries, the cement producer, yesterday said that the £3.4bn bid it has received from Lafarge failed to price in the recovery now apparent in its Asian markets.

BCI said that Asian assets will produce operating profit of £89.5m by 2002 - 10 times the figure for last year. That compares with an operating profit of £49.1m for Asia used in Lafarge's offer document.

Rick Haythornthwaite, chief executive, said: "Lafarge's bid is an attempt to capture [our] growth on the cheap for the benefit of their own shareholders."

However, a spokesman for Lafarge said: "Even working on this new figure for Asia, that still implies a return on capital of less than 7 per cent, which is less than their cost of capital."

In a separate development yesterday, the European Commission said it had extended the timetable for its regulatory ruling on the bid from 3 April to 12 April. Analysts said it was a surprise move and it indicated the Commission had concerns that would force Lafarge to make disposals if it won control of BCI. The timetable for the hostile bid is frozen, pending the EU ruling.

Lafarge's offer is, effectively, pitched at 409p a share. BCI shares yesterday closed up 2.5p at 415.25p.

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