Tata triggers £1bn bid battle for CWW

Shares in Cable & Wireless Worldwide shot up 15 per cent yesterday as Tata Communications of India said it may make a rival offer to the near £1bn hostile bid from Vodafone.

The unexpected emergence of a potential battle for control of the UK's largest business-facing fibre network sent CWW's shares up 4.1p to 31.98p – their highest level for six months.

Tata Communications said it was evaluating a cash bid for CWW, but emphasised that it was at a "very preliminary stage" of considering making an offer. Under Takeover Panel rules it has until 29 March to make up its mind, while Vodafone has until 12 March.

Tata is no stranger to making large acquisitions in the UK. The parent company, Tata Group, bought the steel maker Corus for £13.1bn in 2007 and Jaguar Land Rover for £12bn in 2008.

It is being advised by Standard Chartered, the emerging markets bank, which is also handling the defence on the £1.2bn contested takeover for Cove Energy.

CWW merely said that it noted Tata's interest and advised its shareholders to do nothing.

Shares in CWW had lost more than 70 per cent of their value in the less than two years since it demerged from the international business Cable & Wireless Communications. It has also lost two chief executives in the last year, with the latest, John Pluthero, departing after just six months in charge, having issued a series of profit warnings.

Analysts believe that several private equity firms are also looking at CWW.