Euromoney raises stakes in battle for Metal Bulletin

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The Independent Online

The specialist financial publisher Euromoney made a more determined push yesterday to break up a planned nil-premium merger between its rival, Metal Bulletin, and Wilmington.

Euromoney, which is about 70 per cent owned by the newspaper publisher Daily Mail and General Trust, raised its offer for Metal Bulletin to 400p cash per share, valuing the company at £220m.

On Friday, Metal Bulletin dismissed an unsolicited 340p-a-share, £187m, cash-and-shares approach from Euromoney as "derisory".

Last night's more generous approach was accompanied by a call from Euromoney for Metal Bulletin to call off a meeting next week at which shareholders will be asked to approve the planned merger with Wilmington.

Metal Bulletin, led by chief executive Tom Hempenstall, refused. There is only one concrete offer on the table with no guarantee of any other, he said. Metal Bulletin's board still plans to recommend the tie-up with Wilmington to shareholders, which include Hermes, AXA and Fidelity.

However, Mr Hempenstall will now hold talks with Euromoney about its interest in the group.

Euromoney stressed that its revised proposal is final and values Metal Bulletin shares at a 34 per cent premium to their closing price on 23 June, the last business day before the planned merger with Wilmington was announced. Metal Bulletin shares stood at 371p last night, with Wilmington shares at 180p.

Industry observers have suggested a tie-up with Euromoney would make most sense. Cost savings and synergies of about £5m would easily outstrip the £1.5m expected from the planned merger with Wilmington. A Metal Bulletin merger with Wilmington would create a specialist business information and professional and regulatory training group worth £330m.

Sources close to Metal Bulletin stressed last night that, should shareholders approve the Wilmington tie-up next week, the deal would not become effective until 13 September. That would leave a window during which other options could be fully explored.