Predators line up for Amey

By Clayton Hirst
Sunday 01 December 2002 01:00

Vultures are circling Amey, the support services company that looks increasingly likely to be broken up and sold off in the new year.

No formal approaches have been made to Amey's board. But French construction group Bouygues, water and services specialist AWG, construction company John Laing, US engineering giant Bechtel and Swedish construction firm Skanska are all interested.

It is understood the companies won't make a formal approach until Amey has completed its deal to run a section of the London Underground as part of the Tubelines consortium.

They will also wait until Amey's £50m sale of its Private Finance Initiative investments to John Laing has gone through. Both deals are expected to complete this month. There is widespread speculation that Amey's chief executive, Brian Staples, will step down in January.

Almost a quarter of Amey's shares are now controlled by activist investors after Swiss corporate raider Tito Tettamanti last week upped his stake to 8 per cent. Meditor Capital, which has publicly called for the business to be sold, owns nearly 15 per cent.

Both shareholders are understood to have held informal talks with the companies eyeing Amey.

The company's shares crashed this summer after it abandoned controversial accounting practices. The move turned a £56m profit into an £18m loss and Amey's market capitalisation has slumped to £76.7m. But some analysts believe that the company's £6bn order book means its true value is £200-£300m. Amey's rail and road maintenance businesses are seen as its most valuable parts.

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