Mouchel shares jump after it reveals advanced talks with mystery bidder

SHARES in professional services firm Mouchel leapt yesterday after the firm said it was in advanced takeover talks with an unknown bidder.

The embattled company had been the subject of several approaches from Costain, yet the engineer yesterday said it was not a suitor for the firm.

Rivals linked with Mouchel include the outsourced service providers Carillion, Interserve and Balfour Beatty.

The prospect of an imminent takeover deal could calm Mouchel’s angry shareholders, who had called on the board to sell out.

Major shareholders approached chairman Bo Lerenius last month calling for a sale, after the firm had refused to accept repeated offers from Costain.

The engineer said yesterday it had improved its offer for Mouchel as recently as last week, without revealing the details of the fresh approach.

Analysts said the new suitor’s offer would have to beat Costain’s sweetened 153p per share bid made last month in order to meet Mouchel’s pledge to maximise shareholder value.

Analyst at Arden Partners Geoff Allum said: “Given that the price [Costain] offered was a pretty reasonable one, any such improved offer might’ve meant more cash.

“It does at least say we’re in the end game. Shareholders of course will be pleased.”

He added: “It gives some justification to management for holding out as long as they have. It’ll be good for them, especially if they can get a higher price and a better offer than from Contain.”

Mouchel shares closed up 12 per cent at 152.5p per share, valuing the firm at £171.4m.