VT investors divided over Babcock offer

VT GROUP’S largest shareholder is demanding at least 750p per share from Babcock despite growing calls for the defence company to open its books to its shipbuilding rival.

Invesco Perpetual is believed to be staunchly standing by VT chief executive Paul Lester in his refusal to engage with Babcock, which two weeks ago made an indicative offer for VT in the 685p to 715p range.

Babcock insists it cannot increase its offer unless it goes through VT’s affairs to assess the potential synergies of a merger.

Invesco’s support stayed solid even though Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, which owns significant shares in both VT and Babcock, added its voice to calls for Lester to cooperate with the bidding party yesterday.

SWIP said: “These companies have looked at getting together before and we agree that significant shareholder value could be created through the merger of these two world-class engineering businesses.”

Fund manager Tim Steer of Artemis has led the way in putting pressure on Lester to engage with his opposite number, Peter Rogers. Last week, Steer said: “Only then can we ascertain what the cost savings could be and then ascertain what the right price should be for VT.”

The Takeover Panel is this week expected to issue a “shut up or put up” deadline of April for a firm offer.