URS wins takeover battle for Scott Wilson

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The Independent Online

URS last night won the takeover battle for the engineering consultancy Scott Wilson, raising its bid to 290p a share, which adds up to the second biggest premium paid for a UK company in the last decade.

The winning bid from the San Francisco-based engineer comes at a massive 233 per cent premium to Scott Wilson's closing share price of 87p on 4 June, the last trading day before it confirmed that it was in talks about a takeover.

A rival suitor, the Colorado-based engineer CHM Hill, will confirm this morning that it cannot match the new £233m price tag, and will withdraw its 245p a share offer made on Monday evening.

On Monday afternoon CHM became Scott Wilson's biggest shareholder when it bought a 12.97 per cent stake in the group at 245p a share, hours after URS's first offer of 210p a share had been recommended to shareholders. CHM is now likely to sell its stake to URS in a move that could net it a £4m profit in less than a week.

Last night Geoff French, Scott Wilson's chairman, reaffirmed the recommendation of the URS bid. "The increased offer provides a compelling opportunity for Scott Wilson shareholders to realise a significant premium in cash, and reflects the underlying value of Scott Wilson."

URS said that acquisition of Scott Wilson, which is a key contractor on London's Crossrail project, would expand its operations in the UK and overseas.

The developments came hours after the Takeover Panel intervened in the bid saga yesterday, saying that URS's initial response to the CHM bid – in which it said that it may match the higher offer – broke the panel's rules.

In a statement, the panel said that URS had broken a provision designed to guard against vague statements and ordered URS to in effect "put up or shut up" by announcing by Friday morning that it will either match or better CHM's offer, or that it will not increase its bid.