Doughty bid snubbed by Aegis board

SHAREHOLDERS in Aegis Group have been urged to put pressure on the firm’s board, after its directors allegedly snubbed a competitively-priced approach for its market-research unit Synovate.

Aegis is alleged to have ignored an approach from Doughty Hanson, the private equity owner behind the Vue cinema chain.

Instead, the company has entered into exclusive talks with French group Ipsos, in a deal thought to value the subsidiary at about £520m.

But Doughty’s corporate adviser, Wyvern Partners, has since approached shareholders directly in relation to the sale.

“We have spoken to some of the shareholders. Without being specific as to which, the message we’re getting back is obviously that they are looking for the highest value,” Wyvern founding partner Anthony Gahan told City A.M.. “There’s an element of incredulity, in a way, that no one engaged with us,” he added.

The private equity house’s approach is understood to value Synovate at about £600m, based on Wyvern’s analysis of the firm.

“The shareholders will need to vote on whatever proposal the Aegis board put to them. We have no way of understanding what the outcome would be. We would be surprised if there wouldn’t be some questioning of [the Ipsos] proposal,” said Gahan.

Wyvern first weighed up an approach for Synovate 18 months ago, putting together the case for Doughty Hanson to buy the market research business.

The Mayfair-based boutique then made a formal approach to Greenhill, the investment bank handling the sale on behalf of Aegis, without naming Doughty as the interested bidder.

“Our first contact with them was, as far as we know, even before Ipsos was anywhere near the situation,” Gahan told City A.M..

“It’s an unusual situation, where we understand the business and we are clearly very interested in offering a highly deliverable proposal to the Aegis board. But, for whatever reason, they seem to be very keen in pursuing the existing proposal on the table.

“As far as we know, they have never tested the market to determine what the value of the business might be,” he added.

Aegis declined to comment. Sources familiar with the matter said the company was not willing to play out the sale process in public. They added that the board is focused on delivering value for shareholders.

Doughty Hanson, co-founded by Nigel Doughty, also declined to comment.

ADVISERS: WYVERN PARTNERS

ANTHONY GAHAN
WYVERN PARTNERS

THE CO-FOUNDER of Wyvern Partners, Anthony Gahan, is acting as corporate finance adviser to Doughty Hanson on its approach for Synovate.

The Mayfair-based boutique firm, which prides itself on its independence and client-based focus, had said it was acting on the behalf of a mystery financial suitor for the market research firm last month.

Gahan is a seasoned corporate adviser, having helped to found Wyvern in 2002. He has worked closely with clients in paper and packing, speciality materials, engineering and building products sectors.

He is also responsible for Wyvern’s focus on the media and technology sectors.

Gahan previously worked for Lehman Brothers, with responsibility for the Wall Street firm’s coverage of the European industrial sector.

He is fluent in Spanish, French and Portugese.