RPR set to woo institutions in new phase of Fisons bid

TOM STEVENSON

Deputy City Editor

Rhone Poulenc Rorer snapped up another 1.56 per cent of Fisons shares yesterday - bringing its total holding to 18.16 per cent of the group.

But having failed to buy 29.9 per cent of its target, takeover panel rules now mean that RPR must stop acquiring shares and wait for the final closing date of the bid in two weeks' time, on 20 October.

Meanwhile, the takeover panel and Stock Exchange both refused to comment on a complaint lodged by Fisons' adviser SBC Warburg that Hoare Govett, acting for RPR, had overstated the number of shares it had acquired on Thursday morning. Fisons believed the top-heavy disclosure may have persuaded other holders to sell out to RPR in the mistaken belief that the game was up.

Hoare Govett claimed the mistake was honestly made and it contacted the Stock Exchange on Thursday to correct the announcement later in the day. Sources close to the deal said the response of the panel and the exchange will be watched closely.

RPR will now concentrate its efforts on wooing institutions who are yet to make up their minds about the American drug group's offer for Fisons, which it revised upwards on Thursday to 265p from 240p a share. The latest, final bid, which Fisons continues to reject, values the company at pounds 1.8bn.

The small number of acceptances yesterday was seized on by Fisons as evidence that investors were voting with their feet and backing the company.

In practice, it is thought that most shareholders are simply holding on until the possibility of a white knight bidder emerging is extinguished completely.

Fisons' shares closed 0.5p higher yesterday at 264p, just 1p short of RPR's final offer.

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