House builders agree to meet for bid talks

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The £480m takeover bid from Gerald Ronson's Heron Corporation for the house builder Crest Nicholson hangs on a meeting that will take place in the next few days.

The £480m takeover bid from Gerald Ronson's Heron Corporation for the house builder Crest Nicholson hangs on a meeting that will take place in the next few days.

The two sides will meet to see if a compromise can be thrashed out over the sharing of information, the issue which has so far prevented a formal offer being put forward by Heron.

The Takeover Panel has given the property developer, Heron, until 4 May to make a bid or walk away.

Heron complained yesterday that it has not been given access to Crest Nicholson's books to conduct due diligence before making a formal offer. If this does not happen by 4 May, Heron said it will withdraw its offer.

"Heron urges the shareholders of Crest Nicholson to press the board of Crest Nicholson to permit Heron access to information," the would-be bidder said.

On 16 March, Heron said it was considering an offer of between 345p and 430p a share, worth up to £483m.

Crest Nicholson responded yesterday by reiterating its position - that even the top of Heron's indicative offer range "significantly undervalues" the company. It offered to meet the group "to assist Heron in improving its position as regards value and in clarifying other key components of its proposal".

A spokesman for Heron said it would take up the offer of the meeting. There has been no face-to-face contact between the sides since before 16 March.

Crest said it had not complied with Heron's requests for information because the offer was too vague.

The house builder said: "Crest has asked Heron for clarification on a number of ... issues, including the price of any possible offer, the parties who would make any offer, sources of funding and timetable. The Board regrets that Heron has chosen not to clarify its position in respect of any of these matters ... or otherwise provide any new initiatives to advance this process."

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