Pifco considers a hostile bid for Kenwood

Pifco, the maker of Russell Hobbs kettles and Carmen hairdryers, is taking advice from Goldman Sachs on whether to launch a hostile bid for Kenwood, the consumer appliances group that has seen overseas trading problems drive its shares below their 1992 flotation price.

Although Pifco has approached Kenwood on several occasions to try to forge an agreed deal, its target has refused to sit down for talks and held back financial information Pifco claims it needs before it can make an offer.

In the wake of its poor share price performance - falling from a high of 383p at the beginning of 1994 to only 203.5p yesterday - pressure has been mounting on Kenwood to talk to potential suitors.

The UK Active Value fund, led by Julian Treger and Brian Myerson, was yesterday defeated in its attempt to force through an extraordinary resolution calling on the company to put itself up for sale, but it remains determined to flush out a bidder for Kenwood. UKAV is a veteran of similar high profile agitation at Scholl, Signet and Greycoat.

If successful, the deal would triple Pifco's size and give it access to Kenwood's pan-European distribution network. Michael Webber, Pifco's chairman, said yesterday: "Ideally we would like to do it on an agreed basis, but we are taking advice on all available options."

The fact that Kenwood is larger than Pifco could complicate matters. Any bid would be deemed a "reverse" takeover and so require Pifco to delist its shares before making an offer. Relisting would entail the company drawing up a working capital statement which Mr Webber says it can only do if Kenwood produces certain balance sheet information.

Tim Beech, recently appointed chief executive of Kenwood, has resisted attempts to force him to provide information about its troubled Italian subsidiary, describing the data as "commercial information".

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