Christian Salvesen rises on bid approach

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Christian Salvesen, the UK haulage company, yesterday disclosed that it had received an unsolicited approach from an unnamed financial buyer.

The announcement sent shares in the logistics group 16 per cent higher, valuing it at £176m. Christian Salvesen, which includes Ford, General Motors, Safeway and Marks & Spencer among its customers, refused to disclose the identity of the potential bidder. The company was forced to disclose the possible offer by the Takeover Panel after a sharp rise in its share price on Wednesday.

Market sources pointed to a UK-based private equity group as being behind the approach although Bridgepoint said it was not the bidder and Candover, Cinven, Permira and Guy Hands' Terra Firma were also ruled out.

Christian Salvesen, which was founded in the 19th century by a Norwegian businessman of the same name, is still 35 per cent owned by members of the Salvesen family. A further 10 per cent is controlled by the Swedish investment group Custos.

This is the third time in six years that it has attracted the attention of a bidder. Hays, which is in the process of selling off its own logistics division, made an unsuccessful £1.2bn offer in 1997 and Custos itself later went public about its plans to bid for the whole of the company.

The Hays bid was withdrawn by its then chief executive Ronnie Frost after the family members rejected his opening offer. Following that, the company underwent a demerger, spinning off its plant hire arm Aggreko which is today valued at £415m.

Robin Salvesen, the last member of the family to sit on the board and the one-time head of the shipping division, stood down last July. The company has 15,000 employees and operations in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.