Lafarge bowing to investor pressure

Lafarge bowing to investor pressure
Published: 04 April 2006

Lafarge, owner of a 53.2 per cent stake in Lafarge North America (LAF), today announced that it will amend its cash tender offer for the remaining 46.8 per cent minority stake it does not own by increasing the offer price to US$82 per share.  Lafarge has bowed to pressure from increasingly vocal minority shareholders and raised its bid by 9.3 per cent in a move to win full control of North America’s largest cement supplier.  Lafarge, which had earlier reiterated last its view that its US$75 a share offer was "full and fair," said Tuesday it will now offer US$82 a share and extend the offer until April 28. 

ICR had expected Lafarge to raise its offer after a special committee of Lafarge North America’s board of directors last month rejected Lafarge’s opening bid, calling it "inadequate and not in the best interests of Lafarge North America shareholders."  Analysts had been expecting Lafarge to raise its bid to between US$85 and US$88 per share. On Monday, Lafarge North America shares closed at US$84.36, meaning the new US$82-a-share bid is still below what the market values Lafarge North America at and some sizeable investors may yet hold out for more, with the feeling still prevalent that Lafarge had tried to buy out the minorities on the cheap, following somewhat over-cautious pronouncements made in its earlier nine month sales returns.

The revised offer, notes a Lafarge spokesperson, takes into account the recent generally improved outlook for the North American building materials sector as a whole and for Lafarge North America in particular.  Lafarge believes that at the new offer price the transaction is attractive to Lafarge North America shareholders while still making sense for Lafarge and creating value for its shareholders. 
Lafarge has also extended the expiration date of its offer for common shares of Lafarge North America until 12:00 midnight, New York City time, on Friday, April 28, 2006. Shareholders who have already tendered their shares will receive the increased offer price of US$82 per share and need not take any additional action in order to receive such price.