Owners Abroad did not mislead

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OWNERS Abroad was yesterday cleared of misleading shareholders during its successful defence earlier this year against the pounds 300m takeover bid by Airtours, the rival holiday firm, writes John Shepherd.

The Takeover Panel launched an investigation in July, four months after Airtours lost its bid, and a day after Owners shocked the City with a profits warning and announced that Howard Klein, chairman and chief executive, had resigned.

Owners' shares slumped 32.5p to 66p on the profits warning, which compared with a high during the bid of 152p. The shares yesterday closed unchanged at 92p.

The company did not make a profits forecast as part of its attempt to bolster its bid defences. But the group highlighted its strong trading and the savings that would materialise if it forged an alternative link with Thomas Cook, the travel agency owned by LTU of Germany.

Thomas Cook has since taken a 21.4 per cent stake, 15 per cent of which came from a 150p per share tender offer launched during the final week of Airtours' bid.

Airtours strongly criticised Owners' profits warning in July, saying the trading statement did not represent conditions being experienced in the industry.

The panel said yesterday that it had been satisfied that the statements in the defence documentation relating to current trading and prospects were prepared 'with the required standards of care and accuracy'.

It added that the information given by Owners and its advisers in that connection was 'adequately and fairly' presented.