Triplex admits defeat in battle for William Cook

One of the most bitterly contested takeovers in recent years ended in victory last night for William Cook, the Sheffield-based steel castings group, after rival Triplex Lloyd said it would allow its pounds 74m offer to lapse tomorrow.

Triplex's decision to walk away clears the path for Andrew Cook, executive chairman of William Cook, to take the company private through an pounds 80m management buyout backed by venture capitalists Electra Fleming.

It is the second time in a week that a hostile takeover in the normally sleepy engineering sector has failed following the eleventh-hour appearance of a "white knight" investor. FKI withdrew its bid for Newman Tonks after US industrial equipment group Ingersoll-Rand tabled a higher, agreed offer.

"We correctly identified that William Cook was an undervalued company and would have liked to have acquired it at a price that we could have justified to our shareholders," said Colin Cooke, chairman of Triplex Lloyd. "In the event this was not possible."

However, the war of words between the two sides continued right up until the end with the Cook camp sounding anything but magnanimous in victory.

"We are obviously delighted that Triplex has seen sense," said a spokesman.

"Their tactics were reprehensible but we won the argument."

Triplex's decision to withdraw its cash and shares offer came a day after it and Citigate, its public relations adviser, were rebuked by the Takeover Panel for leaking confidential documents to the press about William Cook.

But it was an indication on the same day by Electra Fleming that it would come back with a second buyout offer if Triplex raised its bid again that probably secured William Cook's independence.

Analysts feared that Triplex, having already raised its bid once, would over-stretch itself in trying to trump Electra's 425p cash offer. The management buyout still awaits shareholder approval.

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