Thomas Cook ponders dawn raid

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THOMAS Cook is believed to have spent yesterday considering contingency plans for a dawn raid on shares in Owners Abroad in what would be a last-ditch effort to block its takeover by Airtours, a rival holiday company.

Last Monday the travel agency owned by Westdeutsche Landesbank made a tender offer for 12.5 per cent of Owners at 150p, conditional on the Airtours bid failing.

Yesterday afternoon representatives of Thomas Cook attended meetings at Samuel Montagu, Owners' merchant bank, at which Owners board was understood to be discussing the options in an attempt to remain independent.

The bid closes at 1pm tomorrow. With Airtours shares at 339p, the cash-and-paper offer for Owners is worth 149.5p and values the company at pounds 294m. On Friday, Owners shares closed at 147p.

Airtours has bought 7 per cent of Owners' shares and Mercury Asset Management has given acceptances for a further 15 per cent.

But the Owners corner has been cheered by weekend reports that Phillips & Drew Fund Management, which has a 10.8 per cent stake, has opted to turn down the offer. Its sister company, UBS Phillips & Drew, is Owners Abroad's broker.

Other institutions whose decisions will be critical are Gartmore, with 7 per cent, Henderson Administration with 4 per cent and Scottish Amicable, with 3 per cent.