UBS has little scope to outflank Joe Lewis

David Hellier
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THE spotlight, when it comes to UBS, is currently on where the investment bank goes from here, but elsewhere there are teams of bankers getting on with their day jobs.

In London, Nick Reid and his team are trying to do the impossible; advise the pubs group Mitchells & Butler on how it might get a higher bid for the group from the currency dealer and investor Joe Lewis.

Lewis has offered just 230p a share for the group and does so from having a shareholding of more than 20 per cent.

What worries shareholders, and UBS, is that Lewis might also have the support of the Irish tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier, not to mention another of the Sandy Lane set, Derrick Smith, who has a 3.4 per cent stake and was yesterday deemed to be acting in concert with the Irish investors.

Whilst the two main shareholders were recently deemed not to be acting in concert, many feel they know each other well enough to negotiate a deal that will give the Irish tycoons a stake in a new Joe Lewis-controlled company, leaving other shareholders with no option but to accept the 230p a share offer.

UBS will be talking to shareholders to get their view of developments. They will also be in touch with the City’s Takeover Panel to keep the Panel aware of concerns that the two largest shareholders might be acting together (in which case there might be an argument for Lewis having to raise his bid slightly to reflect the higher level the Irish tycoons bought shares at in April).

The strongest card might be in trying to persuade Lewis that he should consider a higher bid in order to get a recommendation from the board. But in this deal Lewis very much has the upper hand and it would be no surprise if UBS’s best defence strategy comes to nought.

Famously Lloyd Blankfein, the Goldman Sachs chief executive, turned up to the pitch for the IPO of Evonik, the German chemicals group, so keen were Goldman to win the mandate. The US bank won the job but on Friday lost the war as Evonik became the latest share issue to be pulled due to market conditions.

European IPO volumes are looking weak. At 42, the number of deals completed in the third quarter is the lowest for a couple of years, according to Dealogic.

Inevitably there will now be question marks over the success or otherwise of the Spanish lottery, which is in its pre-marketing phase. The nine banks involved in this one will do well to get it away.