Texans to challenge Co-op with second funeral group

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The Independent Online
SCI, the Texan funeral company, continued its assault on Britain yesterday with a pounds 193m recommended bid for Plantsbrook, only two weeks after paying pounds 113m for control of its rival, Great Southern.

Bill Heiligbrodt, SCI's chairman, said: 'I said I wanted to buy some things over here. You didn't believe the Texan way of doing business.'

Having persuaded Pompes Funebres Generales of France to sell its 46.3 per cent stake, SCI now has more than 50 per cent of Plantsbrook, the largest quoted UK burial business, providing more than 58,000 funerals a year.

Great Southern, acquired after an acrimonious bid, was the second-largest quoted business, with 26,000 burials a year. The combined operation will still rank behind the Co-op, the market leader.

The 175p-a-share offer for Pompes Funebres' stake compares with the 162p a share SCI paid in the market to take its stake up to 8.4 per cent recently.

Since SCI started buying shares in Plantsbrook, the price has run up from 82p. The shares closed 8p higher at 173p yesterday half an hour before the announcement of the deal to the Stock Exchange.

Mr Heiligbrodt said Plantsbrook and Great Southern would be merged, providing some cost savings. He added that SCI would now focus on mainland Europe.

Plantsbrook made pre-tax profits in the year to December 1993 of pounds 12m, implying an exit p/e of 22.5. Net assets were pounds 24.8m.

The Texan group was advised by JP Morgan and Schroders, the merchant bank whose omission of a crucial clause in the documentation of the Great Southern bid cost an estimated pounds 3.8m.