St Gobain lays £3.8bn on table to pressurise BPB board

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The Independent Online

French glass maker Saint Gobain will this week increase its takeover offer for BPB by around £200m, though the bid will be well short of the £4bn the British plasterboard group believes it is worth.

The revised offer - which follows the French company's rejected 720p-per-share bid - will be pitched at around 760p per share. BPB says it will reject any offers of less than 800p.

Saint Gobain will meet BPB shareholders tomorrow and during the rest of the week. Under Takeover Panel rules it must submit a revised offer by Friday.

Jean-Louis Beffa, chief executive of Saint Gobain, is said to be prepared to offer Mr Cousins and other senior executive directors a place on its board in return for their recommendation of a revised offer.

But Mr Beffa will have no hesitation in pursuing a hostile bid without the BPB board's support. However, if BPB shareholders hold out for the 800p the company's directors are demanding, Saint Gobain directors will this week tell them that they are ready to walk away.

Shareholders have until 2 December to decide whether to accept Saint Gobain's bid.

Relations between the two companies have all but broken down since Saint Gobain lodged its surprise bid in July, while BPB directors were watching England play Australia in the Ashes. BPB, which operates a UK joint venture with Saint Gobain, has complained about being ambushed with an unexpected bid, while the French have accused their British counterparts of stonewalling them ever since.

BPB was attacked by Saint Gobain for offering greatly enhanced cash payouts to shareholders as part of its defence strategy.

Unusually in a bid situation, hedge funds have little sway in the decision. Five of the top six shareholders in BPB are UK institutions. These hold more than 30 per cent of the company's shares between them.