Outlook: Cala farce

THE BID battle for Cala, a small and specialised Scottish housebuilder, has taken up far more column inches than a deal of this size would normally merit. In these days of BP-Amoco style marriages, a pounds 98m bid for one obscure company by another unquoted company should barely register on the radar screen.

It is, of course, the tactics, or perhaps we should say the antics, of the Cala management that have attracted attention. Just to recap, the management, using a bid vehicle called Dotterel, exactly matched the 200p cash offer made by Miller which, because of some careless wording in its offer document, was prevented by the Takeover Panel from raising its bid unless a higher offer came along. Any hopes that institutional investors in Cala would oblige with such a virtual offer in order to allow Miller to raise its bid fizzled out last night and Dotterel seized victory.

There are two lessons from this sorry saga. First, never rely on the Takeover Panel to use its common sense to ensure that the best interests of shareholders are served. Two, come armed with a copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage when confronted with opponents as cynical as the Cala management.

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