Shares in Sema rise 14% as it admits to approaches

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The Independent Online

Sema, the Anglo-French information technology services group that has suffered two profits warnings, a director's share-dealing scandal and the planned departure of its chief executive, admitted yesterday that it had received takeover approaches.

Sema, the Anglo-French information technology services group that has suffered two profits warnings, a director's share-dealing scandal and the planned departure of its chief executive, admitted yesterday that it had received takeover approaches.

Schlumberger, a US oilfield services company, was thought to be the most likely predator. It was reported to be arranging a loan of $3bn (£2bn), which could help finance a bid.

Sema said there was more than one approach, but added that they were preliminary and no formal bid had been made. CMG, another IT services company, said it was not interested, but Logica refused to comment.

Cap Gemini, the French computer services group, had been seen as the most obvious contender, but last week it said it was not be interested in the whole of Sema.

Sema shares closed up 14 per cent at 449p, valuing it at £2.7bn. The stock has tumbled from 1,801p in the past year.

Although the logic of a Sema-Schlumberger combination was not immediately apparent, the US firm has been linked with a Sema bid over the last few days in the French and British press.

Yesterday's admission by Sema of bid interest came in response to reports that Schlumberger was raising a loan.

Geoff Kieburtz, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney in New York, said: "The possibility that Schlumberger is interested in Sema is not far-fetched. It does fit with their previous statements about future investments outside the oil sector and it is of a size Schlumberger could easily afford."

Another analyst suggested that, after a Sema acquisition, Schlumberger would put its non-oil interests together and spin them off.

Sema's problems stem from its £3.3bn acquisition, announced in March last year, of LHS, a US mobile-phone billing firm. Difficulties in integrating LHS have weighed on Sema's previously strong telecoms division, and led to profit warnings in November and last month. January's statement came with news that Pierre Bonelli, chief executive, would step down.

Sentiment towards Sema was not helped by the fact that a non-executive director, Hartmut Lademacher, sold £24m of shares ahead of the profits warnings. Its two biggest shareholders, France Telecom and Paribas, have said they wish to exit this investment.

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