St-Gobain extends BPB offer

St-Gobain extends BPB offer
Published: 14 November 2005

Saint-Gobain SA said it will extend its offer for UK plasterboard maker BPB, but refrained from raising its GBP3.7 billion bid. The two companies were in talks over the weekend as Saint-Gobain sought BPB’s approval for its 720-pence-a-share offer, which the UK company’s board has rejected, according to a person close to the deal.

But Monday, Saint-Gobain made no mention of how the talks had progressed, saying only that it had so far received approval from just 0.71% of BPB shareholders and was extending its offer, first launched in August, until Dec. 2. It didn’t raise its offer price.

Newspapers in the UK reported Sunday that Saint-Gobain was prepared to raise its bid to 760 pence-a-share to gain a recommendation from BPB’s management.  Monday, some analysts said that even a raised bid of 760 pence was likely to be rejected by BPB. Numis Securities’ Rachel Waring said she thought BPB was now looking for a bid of 800 pence a share or over, and Saint-Gobain would have stood a better chance if it had made a 760 pence bid initially.

BPB’s management has mounted a stiff defense against Saint-Gobain’s hostile approach, saying it will recommend an 88% increase in dividends over the next three years, on top of a planned GBP600 million capital return to shareholders.  Last week, the company posted a 6.4 per cent rise in first-half net profit and said the result backed its argument that Saint-Gobain’s offer undervalues the company.

The EU last week cleared the offer by Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest suppliers of glass and other building materials. The company wants to combine BPB’s plasterboard business with its own insulation business. BPB is the world’s largest plasterboard manufacturer; it also supplies insulation materials, tiles and other products for building interiors.