Clock starts ticking on UK takeover bids

Elizabeth Fournier
A RAFT of UK acquisition bids could all be announced on Monday 17 October, after new rules introduced yesterday shortened the timeframe for a bidder to make an offer or walk away.

As part of sweeping changes to the UK’s Takeover Code, offeror companies will now have to adhere to a 28-day “put-up-or-shut-up” deadline – forcing some big name bidders to speed up their pursuit of potential targets.

Among the ongoing takeover talks that must now be completed within the four-week period are Ladbrokes’ approach to Sportingbet, first confirmed back in July, and hotel operator MWB’s lingering pursuit of office space supplier MWB Business Exchange, also on the table since July.

Ahead of yesterday’s 5pm deadline that was assigned to deals already in front of the Takeover Panel, companies including Coolabi, Merchant Securities and Parseq also updated the market on ongoing talks.

Several prospective buyers were also outed by the new rules yesterday, under a new provision which requires a company to also name its potential suitor when it receives an approach.

Canadian travel agency Red Label was named as being in talks with Aim-listed online travel group Travelzest, in relation to a “possible offer for the company...likely to be solely in cash”.

And gaming firm Probability (see left) said it was in discussion with bookie William Hill, sending its shares up by more than 40 per cent.