New bidder enters race for AssetCo

A THIRD bidder is circling troubled London fire engine supplier AssetCo in addition to the two already named, City A.M. has learned.

Manchester-based turnaround and investment house Consilia Partners is currently meeting AssetCo’s shareholders as it prepares to make a bid.

Consilia enters the bidding alongside Bahraini fund Arcapita and Italian investor Investindustrial, both of which have previously submitted offers for AssetCo.

The three bidders are keen to snap up AssetCo, which remains a profitable operating company, as its share price has slumped to 3.6p per share from highs of 66p in November 2010 after a series of financial setbacks and internal strife.

However, City A.M. understands that AssetCo faces a claim for £180,000 in unpaid bills from a second creditor, parts supplier Supply 999, alongside Northern Bank’s £1.3m claim for the return of its overdraft.

Supply 999, which was part of AssetCo until December 2010 when it had a management buyout, joined Northern Bank’s creditor petition on 17 May.

Arcapita’s most recent offer of 14-21p per share on 14 March is still lodged with the Takeover Panel.

Gareth Taylor of Investec, which advises Arcapita, said that offer no longer applies because AssetCo issued a highly dilutive share placement later in March – but it remained interested in making a bid.

“Arcapita remains an interested party open to dialogue with the management team,” he said.

AssetCo’s shareholders have seen their stakes diluted after it issued 160m 10p shares to a small group of investors to raise £16m in March.

One investor told City A.M. his fund was interested in an external bid as it feared the alternative would be another huge placement at 1p per share or a sale to one investor for a nominal sum, leaving its stake worthless.