UK sees frenzy of takeover activity

by Jonathan Adams

Experts said the weak pound and Covid-hit stock prices have made UK firms appear cheap to overseas buyers, sparking a string of bids

The City was gripped by a fresh frenzy of takeover activity as cash-rich suitors hunted for bargains on Britain’s stock market.

Chemicals giant Elementis spurned a £755million approach, while estate agent Countrywide received another £103million bid and ‘internet-of-things’ firm Telit Communications rejected a £259million advance from private equity.

At the same time, technology firm IMI Mobile announced a £543million tie-up with US giant Cisco and bosses at retirement builder McCarthy & Stone backed a sale of its business.

The offers came amid an already-dizzying amount of takeover activity – with bookmaker William Hill, insurer RSA and security firm G4S all targeted.

Experts said the weak pound and Covid-hit stock prices have made UK firms appear cheap to overseas buyers – sparking a string of bids that could lead to a fees bonanza for bankers and other advisers.

A City source close to one of the deals said: This is pandemic plundering.

Elementis, which started as a tea merchant in 1844 but is now one of the UK’s biggest chemicals businesses, said it had rejected a third approach worth £755million from US rival Mineral Technologies because it fell ‘significantly short’ of what the company was truly worth.

Its board unanimously rejected the offer, branding it ‘highly opportunistic’. Shares fell 2.4 per cent, or 3.1p, to 123.7p.

Telit too rejected a £259million takeover bid from private equity firm Dbay Advisors, saying it would ‘fundamentally undervalue’ the business. Its shares stayed flat.

And Countrywide said it was considering an improved offer from rival Connells of £112million, sending its stock surging 22.4 per cent, or 57p, to 312p.

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