Ronson aims to scupper bid defence at Crest Nicholson

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The Independent Online

The property tycoon Gerald Ronson is flexing his muscles ahead of today's annual shareholder meeting of Crest Nicholson, the housebuilder. He threatened yesterday to vote down the group's plans to boost its defences against his potential £480m bid.

The property tycoon Gerald Ronson is flexing his muscles ahead of today's annual shareholder meeting of Crest Nicholson, the housebuilder. He threatened yesterday to vote down the group's plans to boost its defences against his potential £480m bid.

Mr Ronson's property firm Heron holds a 23.4 per cent stake in Crest Nicholson, almost certainly big enough to block two special resolutions which require the backing of 75 per cent of shareholders voting.

Crest said it was braced for a defeat of the proposals, which would allow it to buy back up to 5 per cent of its shares and give it the power to grant new shares. It said it was "disappointed" by Heron's opposition to the two resolutions.

Heron said it would vote against the proposals because they could be used to change Crest's shareholder structure. "Heron acknowledges these powers may not be unusual in a different context but does not believe they are appropriate for the board of Crest Nicholson at this time," the firm said.

Crest - an attractive target with its large land-bank - again rebuffed Heron's advances yesterday, repeating that its takeover proposal "significantly undervalues" the group. Some analysts agree Heron's indicative offer of 345p to 430p a share is too low. Mark Hughes, an analyst at Numis Securities, said a 450p to 460p offer would be more appropriate. Stephen Rawlinson, at Arbuthnot Securities, thinks not less than 500p.

Yesterday Heron called on Crest's shareholders to lobby the board to give it access to its books. But Crest sees no need. It is believed that Heron, as Crest's top shareholder, should have all the information needed for a firm bid. The UK Takeover Panel has set Heron a deadline of 4 May to table an offer.

Mr Ronson, 65, could be trying to flush out another buyer; should Crest be taken over for 500p a share, Heron would make a £128m profit.

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