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Rentokil yesterday claimed just under 11 per cent of bid target BET after picking up a further 7 million shares in the market at 202.5p ahead of tomorrow's closing date. The purchases, made at the same price as the cash alternative offer, take its holding to around 7.5 per cent. It already has acceptances covering 3.4 per cent of BET's shares.

Meanwhile, BET stepped up the war of words, claiming that an academic study showed that the bidder's shares would underperform if it won the takeover battle. An investigation by Kjell Nyborg, assistant professor of finance at the London Business School, showed that Rentokil's share price could fall by 8 per cent "very quickly" after the acquisition, representing a loss of some pounds 440m of shareholder value.