WBB faces battle as Sibelco bids

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The Independent Online
WATTS Blake Bearne, the ball clay manufacturer, yesterday embarked on a second battle for independence as one of the members of the concert party that holds 45 per cent of its shares launched an pounds 87m bid.

The bid comes from Sibelco, a privately owned Belgian producer of sand for glass manufacture, which has had a 14.8 per cent stake in WBB since 1988, when, along with fellow-concert party member Quarzwerke, it bought shares from English China Clays.

The concert party had been trying to find an outside buyer for the shares after Ceramics, the third member, said it wanted to dispose of its stake. But no buyer could be found and the sale was called off last month.

Yesterday, however, Sibelco announced that it had purchased Ceramics' 15.6 per cent stake, forcing it to offer the same price - 420p a share - for the rest of the company. Quarzwerke, a German company in the same business as Sibelco, will either accept the offer or sell its shares to Sibelco at Sibelco's request.

WBB said it had expected one of the other concert party members to buy Ceramics' stake when an outside buyer could not be found. But it urged shareholders to reject the offer, saying that it represents a 'wholly inadequate premium for control'.

Its shares closed 24p up at 415p yesterday, having touched 420p.