pounds 684m Gehe bid could clinch Lloyds battle

Gehe, the German pharmaceuticals distributor, yesterday looked close to clinching the 12-month bid battle for Lloyds Chemists after raising its all-cash offer to pounds 684m.

The bidder moved into the market to scoop up just under 21 per cent of Lloyds' shares soon after the announcement that the offer was being raised from 500p to 525p a share and made final.

The move comes a week before the final deadline for higher offers, but Dieter Kammerer, Gehe chairman, said the delay was damaging the business. Since the start of the bid last January, Gehe estimated the value of Lloyds had declined by around 10 per cent. Adding that back to the revised terms, would value them at more like 560p to 570p a share, he claimed. There was no word from rival bidder UniChem yesterday but analysts said it would be difficult for it to top Gehe's terms.

Shares in Lloyds jumped 14p to 526.5p, but UniChem's were also 10p higher at 256p on expectations that it would not increase its offer. If UniChem does bow out, directors could make pounds 4.3m in option profits and pay-offs, while the stake belonging to Allen Lloyd, chairman, could be worth pounds 32m.