Ashtead walks away from Lavendon

INDUSTRIAL hire firm Ashtead and Belgium’s TVH Services walked away from its bid for Lavendon Group yesterday, ending a two-month-long battle for control of the British rental-equipment firm.

The news sent Lavendon shares down 11 per cent to 97.25p, making them the top percentage losers on the London Stock Exchange, as investors feared few other buyers would emerge in a depressed construction market.

On the day before TVH’s initial bid was made public, the stock had closed at 79p. Ashtead shares were up seven per cent at 170.3, and were among the top risers.

“With few other likely buyers, we believe Lavendon will now trade closer to fundamental valuations once again,” said Panmure Gordon analyst Paul Jones.

Lavendon had rejected the sweetened £189m Ashtead-TVH bid on 13 January, saying the sweetened offer undervalued it, a month after it rebuffed TVH’s £183m offer.

Ashtead said the joint offer was subject to completion of confirmatory due diligence and a recommendation by Lavendon’s board.

“Lavendon’s rejection means these pre-conditions cannot be fulfilled and as a result the joint acquirers will not proceed with an offer,” Ashtead said in a statement.

Lavendon chairman John Standen said after the announcement: “I’m delighted that this uncertainty has been removed. We have a clear set of objectives to enhance shareholder value and Lavendon is very well positioned.”