TLG shares up as Wassall considers a counter-offer

TLG, THE lighting group, was at the centre of a possible takeover battle yesterday after Wassall, the mini-conglomerate, refused to rule out a counter-bid to a pounds 321m offer from an American group. TLG' s board yesterday recommended a cash offer from Cooper Industries, the US lighting group, which values its shares at 160p.

But Wassall, which has built up a 14.02 per cent stake in TLG over the past year, refused to rule out launching a higher offer. David Roper, Wassall deputy chief executive, was reported as saying the company was reviewing its options and could choose either to accept the bid or enter the fray. Wassall could not be reached for comment last night.

The speculation sent TLG shares soaring 17p to 166.5p - a premium to the price offered by Cooper - suggesting that the City expects a higher offer.

Hamish Bryce, TLG executive chairman, said the group had been in talks with a number of potential suitors since 31 July, when it first revealed that it had received an approach. But it is understood not to have had any talks with Wassall.

Analysts said Cooper's bid, which values TLG shares at a multiple of 18.8 times pre-exceptional earnings, was not a knock-out blow and may have to be raised. Warburg Dillon Read, the investment bank, was yesterday morning believed to be buying shares in the market on behalf of Cooper in an attempt to strengthen its position.

The deal marks an end to a mixed four-year tenure on the stock exchange for TLG. The company, which was a management buyout from music group Thorn EMI, floated at a price of 115p in 1994. After first performing well, its shares slumped in 1996 when the European lighting market was hit by overcapacity. More recently the group had been hit by worries about a slowdown in its Far East markets. Earlier this year the shares hit a new low of 92p.

Last year Cooper bought Menvier-Swain, the emergency lighting group, for pounds 165m.