Wassall says BICC rejects bid

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The Independent Online
WASSALL, the bidder for BICC, the engineering group, yesterday said BICC's board had rejected an increased pounds 756m takeover offer without discussion.

Wassall yesterday urged shareholders to persuade the board to change its mind at the last minute and recommend the informal offer. The Takeover Panel on Wednesday imposed a deadline of 1pm today, after which Wassall must end the informal approaches.

Wassall, a bottle tops to travel goods maker, said it was prepared to bid 125p in cash for each ordinary BICC share. Earlier this year the group made another informal bid of 90p.

Wassall will also offer pounds 1.25 of pounds 1 nominal value 10.75 per cent loan stock for every convertible preference share, with a partial cash alternative of pounds 1.15 per preference share.

The announcement was made after the market closed, with BICC ordinary shares standing at 107p in expectation of a further bid of 110p.

The 125p bid is an informal offer, which Wassall claims is necessary because BICC's board has refused to talk to its executives.

Chris Miller, Wassall's chief executive, said: "We believe our offers are generous and fully reflect the value of BICC, whose ordinary shares were a mere 57p before the disclosure of our stake in November 1988.

"We note that the BICC board has never explained to us why offers at 125p undervalue BICC. As we have said consistently, we are not prepared to make an offer without a board recommendation and therefore if BICC shareholders wish our offers to proceed they must act now."

Last night Alan Jones, chief executive of BICC, contradicted this. He said the board had written to Wassall today to say why the bid had been rejected.

Mr Jones told The Independent he had already had one shareholder telephone to urge him to consider the increased offer carefully. He added that others were urging him to reject it.

"What I'm going to tell them is that actually the value of Balfour Beatty [one BICC division] has increased enormously in recent months.

"Secondly, our PFI projects are a sleeping item of great value. The hard cold fact is that when we go away from the board meeting tomorrow we must deliver and I am confident of that," Mr Jones said.