Warburg 'argy bargy' stirs up Paris bourse

A French bank was subjected to a harsh lesson in aggressive Anglo- Saxon investment techniques yesterday when the battle for control of a pounds 700m French investment trust took an unexpected turn.

The subject of the power play was Compagnie d'investissement de Paris (CIP), a French company which takes small stakes in quoted companies. Banque Nationale de Paris controls 84 per cent of CIP and last week made an offer to buy out all the minority shareholders.

Unfortunately for the French these included SBC Warburg, the London-based Swiss bank which controls a 3 per cent stake and was unimpressed by the terms of the Gallic offer.

BNP offered the minority shareholders one BNP share for every CIP share held. Though BNP shares were then valued at Fr202 they slipped this week to Fr180, valuing the company at Fr5bn (pounds 532m).

To prove its point Warburg's yesterday tabled a FF205 per share offer for BNP's 84 per cent stake, valuing the whole company at pounds 630m. The offer will stand until noon on Monday. By close of trading yesterday, Warburg's had heard nothing.

It is thought that Warburg has no real interest in taking the whole of CIP but in pushing up the price.

Warburg's aggressive tactics are likely to have come as quite a shock in the comparatively sleepy Paris bourse where such argy bargy is less common.

The muscular move comes in the same week as Britain's Takeover Panel launched its latest salvo to prevent Brussels from interfering in domestic bids and deals. Contested takeover bids are uncommon on the Continent and in some cases virtually unheard of. The City has reacted angrily to suggestions that Brussels should try to harmonise European takeover codes. It is seen as an attempt to rein in what the Continent sees as untrammelled Anglo-Saxon speculators wreaking havoc.

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