Dave McCulloch, chief executive of Enodis, has been no stranger to corporate raiders during his time with the group.
So he remains sanguine about the company, one of the world’s leading suppliers of industrial kitchen equipment, becoming the centre of a possible bid battle.
“I have been at the company 20 years and have been through three different ownerships, so I have seen all this stuff before,” he says.
It emerged this week that the board had rejected an informal approach from a second suitor.
Manitowoc, a US industrial conglomerate, had indicated that it was prepared to pay 210p a share, valuing Enodis’s equity at £850m.
The latest offer came less than a month after Middleby, another US rival, was rebuffed after indicating it would pay 195p a share.
For Mr McCulloch, who has led Enodis since June 2003, it is simple.
Neither Middleby nor Manitowoc can match Enodis’s range of equipment or its brand strength, and are trying to get the company on the cheap.
That is not to say Enodis does not have a price.
“From my personal perspective we, the management team, would prefer to continue on our path and deliver shareholder value through the implementation of our strategy,” he says. “But, clearly, if the right offer comes along, the board will have to consider it.”
Middleby has pursued a strategy of specialising on the “hot side” of the kitchen equipment business, offering products such as fryers and cookers.
On the other hand, the food equipment division of Manitowoc, a Wisconsin-based conglomerate, is focused on the “cold side”, offering drink dispensers, refrigerators and ice machines.
Enodis has all these products and more. Many are top-ranked brands in the US, Europe or indeed globally.
Mr McCulloch, 59, argues that the interest shown by the two suitors only goes to underpin the logic of Enodis’s strategy. “Middleby has been very public about its focus on the hot side of the business and Manitowoc has been very public about their focus on the cold side. The fact that both of them have changed their view really validates the Enodis strategy.” Enodis is thought to be the global market leader in food and beverage equipment, with about 6 per cent of a highly fragmented market.
But the company is vulnerable because of its size and the discrepancy in valuations across the Atlantic, which makes UK engineers relatively cheap compared with their US peers.
Mr McCulloch concedes that the valuation differential is a big factor in the US bidders’ thinking – and is a factor in the trend of US engineers buying their UK counterparts in recent years.
But he insists that he can see off the offers at their current levels. “The chances are we will remain independent,” he said this week.
He believes the company is well-positioned to continue to tap into the rapid growth in the global market.
This confidence has been underscored by strong interim results and by a raft of analyst upgrades.
Mr McCulloch says his customer base, which includes big chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, is in the middle of a three-year replacement cycle.
The key question for investors is whether the pursuit of Enodis turns into a bid battle.
Middleby is half the size of Enodis and its bid at 195p was highly leveraged.
There is speculation that Middleby would be hard-pushed to go much higher than Manitowoc’s failed offer. Merrill Lynch estimates Enodis could be worth 267p per share.
That could leave the way open for other potential suitors, such as Illinois Tool Works and UTC from the US, or possible Sweden’s Electrolux.
But Mr McCulloch, who has indicated he would not continue under new ownership, will not be prised away from his business easily. “We have great brands, great technology and we serve the blue chip companies all over the world. That doesn’t come easy and is unique.”
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