Bullish VT still after Mouchel

SUPPORT services supplier VT Group repeated its interest in taking over rival Mouchel yesterday as it reported a good second half performance and said it was trading in line with hopes.

VT, which has approached utilities, transport and local government contractor Mouchel twice, said it believed a tie-up between the pair would be ”strategically compelling”.

VT is under pressure to make a bid for Mouchel or withdraw its interest after the Takeover Panel gave it a “put up or shut up” deadline of 8 March.

Mouchel has rebuffed the former shipbuilder’s overtures, describing them as wholly inadequate and saying it believed they substantially undervalued the company.

VT, which believes a deal with Mouchel would enable it to win bigger contracts, said it was considering its options. “We’re not ruling out anything,” a spokesman said.

VT, which supplies services in areas like defence, energy, education and broadcasting, said it had continued to do well in the second half and was making good progress towards meeting its expectations for the full year.

It said it had a £4bn order book and had been named preferred bidder by the Highways Agency for a £25m, four year contract to supply, maintain and manage more than 200 motorway patrol vehicles – its first big deal with the UK’s trunk roads authority.

VT, once known as shipbuilder Vosper Thornycroft, sold its shipbuilding operations by disposing last October of its stake in the BVT joint venture, which is building two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy.

The disposal bolstered its balance sheet, giving it net cash of £92m at 31 December, compared with net debt of £191.3m last September.