Cenkos withdraws Close Brothers offer

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Cenkos, the specialist small and mid-cap securities broker headed by Andy Stewart, has decided to withdraw its offer for the independent merchant bank Close Brothers.

Cenkos, which had made an indicative proposal of 1025p per Close Brothers share earlier this month, said that while its offer was "fully funded and ready to go", it had decided to walk away owing to a "policy of obstruction".

A Cenkos spokesman said: "Senior Close management have given the impression of willing to engage but have in fact adopted a policy of obstruction." She added: "We have had to conclude there is no willingness on their part to agree a deal that would have been in the interests of Close shareholders and its staff."

In a separate statement, Icelandic bank Landsbanki, which had teamed up with Cenkos to buy Close Brothers, said it had no plans to make another bid.

Close Brothers said that Cenkos' departure was prompted by its rejection of a precondition, proposed last week, which would have restricted its flexibility to investigate a transaction with other suitors.

A Close Brothers spokesman also disputed Cenkos' account. "We bent over backwards to give them time to substantiate their offer," he said. "Neither the equity nor the debt part of their offer was completed."

The spokesman confirmed that the bank was still in talks with other interested parties.

Close Brothers rejected a 950p-a-share offer from Cenkos last November. At the time, the bank, Britain's oldest independent finance house, said that approach was "wholly inadequate". Cenkos, which planned to take control of Close Brothers' asset management, corporate advisory and investment banking business and the Winterfloods broking business, returned with a renewed offer on 8 January.

Close Brothers stock, which has fallen by 21 per cent over the past year, was down by 177p or 19 per cent to 750p at close yesterday.