Canary Wharf to be bought by Qatar for £2.6bn

Majority owner Songbird Estates reluctantly surrendered to the bid

Canarf Wharf's majority owner Songbird Estates has given in to a £2.6 billion bid from Qatar and Canada after international attempts to find another buyer foundered.

Songbird, itself a 69 per cent shareholder in Canary Wharf Group, believes the 350p-a-share final offer from the Qatar Investment Authority, headed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani, and Canadian developer Brookfield undervalues the business and put a 381p price-tag on itself early in the bid saga.

The Qataris already own 28.6 per cent of Songbird, but the battle was decided away from the public eye as the firm admitted that three of its major private investors were likely to accept the 350p-a-share bid.The joint venture — advised by investment banking rainmaker Ken Costa - will now oversee a huge development pipeline including Wood Wharf in Docklands and the South Bank’s Shell Centre.

The retreat comes less than 24 hours before the offer lapses at 1pm tomorrow and after the Songbird board unsuccessfully cast around the world for a rival bidder.

"No such offer has been forthcoming to date and the board believes that none will now be forthcoming before the first closing date," the company said.

The US investor, Simon Glick, holds 25.1 per cent, the China Investment Corporation 15.8 per cent and Morgan Stanley 8.5 per cent.

With all these backing the offer - as well as some shareholders in Songbird’s relatively small free float — the bidders can now command more than 85 per cent of the company’s shares.

The AIM-listed firm warned minority shareholders could become trapped in the company if the joint venture fails to reach the 90 per cent point at which it can automatically buy up remaining shares, but decides to go ahead with a delisting anyway.

Songbird’s new owners have committed to retain existing key management.

Sir George Iacobescu, chairman and chief executive of CWG and architect of the modern Canary Wharf, said: "In the future Songbird and Canary Wharf will become one and the same company, which will be beneficial for the company.

"As the person running Canary Wharf, two of the biggest companies in the world have decided to buy into the future of the company, that’s a major endorsement of the company and the management."

The complex ownership structure of Songbird and CWG is the relic of a 2004 takeover battle as well as a 2009 bailout for Songbird. Shares rose 8 per cent or 27.25p to 348.75p.

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