Rentokil attempts to `cherry pick' BET

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Rentokil's pounds 1.8bn bid for BET was thrown into confusion yesterday after it emerged that an attempt to reach an agreed deal had been rejected.

Lazards, Rentokil's advisers, approached Barings, BET's advisers, on Wednesday in an effort to reach a recommended deal for BET's textile, distribution and security businesses. But analysts voiced surprise that Rentokil should seek to "cherry pick" BET businesses so soon after launching a hostile bid that included strong criticism of BET's management record.

Rentokil's cash and shares offer for its rival was forced into the open last Thursday by the Takeover Panel after a dramatic rise in the BET share price. Rentokil said it wanted an agreed deal, but less than 24 hours later went hostile, fiercely criticising BET's record under chief executive John Clark.

Nigel Utley, analyst at Greig Middleton, described this latest move by Rentokil as "a complete non-starter." The severe criticisms which Clive Thompson, Rentokil's chief executive, had made of BET, were "clearly not going to enamour them to a friendly approach."

Rentokil said it was doing the best thing for shareholders. "It was important that we should attempt to get around the table," said a spokesman. Rentokil's primary aim remained to acquire the whole of BET, and the approach for selected businesses did not mean the others would be put up for sale.