Hyder debacle heads to court

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The Independent Online

The Takeover Panel, which has presided over the City's bids and deals for more than 30 years, is expected to be taken to court for the first time in its history after the £557m bid for the Welsh water and electricity group Hyder descended into farce over the weekend.

The Takeover Panel, which has presided over the City's bids and deals for more than 30 years, is expected to be taken to court for the first time in its history after the £557m bid for the Welsh water and electricity group Hyder descended into farce over the weekend.

The panel ruled that the two rival bidders - Japanese bank Nomura and WPD, a US joint venture - should make sealed bids, to be deposited by 1pm on Friday. Nomura decided not to increase its existing 360p-a-share offer, while WPD bid 365p. However, it missed the deadline for posting the offer after a disagreement with the panel over the bid's wording.

Nomura objected, saying the bid should not stand, but the panel overruled that objection late on Friday night and said the WPD offer would be the winner.

Nomura, which has said it is willing to match the WPD offer, is now appealing to the panel, with a hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

Whichever way the appeal goes, it is likely that the loser will go for judicial review and may even sue the panel for damages because of the debacle.

Nomura is understood already to be angry with the panel for allowing Deutsche Bank, the adviser to United Utilities which is a backer of WPD, to buy a 7.2 per cent stake in Hyder but not disclose it. Deutsche said it bought the shares as a market maker but then sold them to WPD.

The panel belatedly ruled that Deutsche was a related party to WPD but did not force WPD to sell the shares.

Advisers to both sides expressed their frustration at the panel and the executive in charge of the bid, Tim Cargill.

The situation will add to pressure, from both the European Commission and parts of the Labour Party, to replace the panel with a statutory body.

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