Rivals for Corus get 30 January deadline

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The Takeover Panel set a January deadline to resolve the bidding war for the UK steel producer Corus yesterday and raised the prospect of holding an auction for the company if there are still two competing offers on the table at that time.

The Brazilian steel producer CSN has lodged the highest bid for Corus after last week's £4.9bn agreed offer trumped a renewed bid from its Indian rival Tata Steel. Tata Steel has yet to comment on whether it intends to raise its bid for a third time, although shares in Corus have drifted over recent days as hopes of a counter-bid have faded.

Both companies have tabled bids for Corus through a scheme of arrangement rather than a standard takeover offer. Under takeover rules, rival bidders have 46 days from the initial bid to launch a rival offer. There is no such deadline under a scheme of arrangement, which requires 75 per cent of the company's shareholders to approve the deal at an extraordinary general meeting.

Corus shareholders were due to attend an EGM this month to approve Tata's initial bid, but that meeting was adjourned after CSN indicated it was preparing an offer. The EGM was rescheduled for today but Corus is set to adjourn the meeting again as it awaits news of Tata's intentions.

The Takeover Panel has given CSN and Tata until 30 January to resolve the situation so Corus shareholders are not left in limbo. If there are still two bidders then, an auction will be held.