Hess matches Allied Domecq's winery bid

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The Independent Online

Allied Domecq came under pressure to raise its takeover bid for Peter Lehmann Wines after its A$143.6m (£59.5m) offer for the Australian winemaker was yesterday trumped by its bidding rival, Hess of Switzerland.

Although Hess's increased offer, at A$3.85 per share, only matched that tabled on Monday by Allied, the Swiss group said it also planned to let shareholders keep their final dividend of 5.5 cents. It also waived all of its previous conditions, including its stipulation that at least 35 per cent of shareholders must accept.

Hess's move pitches Allied firmly in the familiar territory of a New World takeover battle. Two years ago the British group bought Montana, the New Zealand winemaker, after a long battle with Lion Nathan. It also raised a question mark over whether Peter Lehmann's three independent directors, who had earlier backed Allied's bid, would change their recommendation. Hess raised its offer after the Australian stock market had closed.

Mr Lehmann, the Australian company's eponymous founder and 10.1 per cent shareholder, has dismissed Allied's offer, insisting he does not intend to accept. His intransigence invalidates a clause in Allied's bid that states its offer would rise to A$4 per share if more than 90 per cent of shareholders accept.

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