The board of Alliance Boots has done the only thing it could sensibly do given the conflicts of interest of some of its members: it has rejected KKR’s £10 a share proposed offer as too low. The shares have risen just above that level this afternoon. With Stefano Pessina and his 15 per cent holding lined up behind KKR’s proposal and six others on the 13 strong board allied to Mr Pessina, this situation is a big test for chairman Sir Nigel Rudd. Pessina and KKR clearly see growth opportunities that other investors have missed, not just room for financial engineering or asset stripping, which is minimal at Boots. This alone is a good reason not to accept their first offer.
The CDS market, meanwhile, is suggesting that the chances of a bid for J Sainsbury has receded now that KKR, which is part of the consortium stalking it, has honed in on Boots. Sainsbury shares are off about 2 per cent.
Ford Motor has confirmed the sale of Aston Martin to a consortium of investors led by David Richards, a motor industry veteran, for close to £439m ($848m). The consortium also includes John Sinders( who has just given up being a banker at Jefferies but has gave them the business of advising the consortium) and two Kuwaiti-based financial firms. Our man, Jonathan Guthrie, dragged his battered Volvo estate to the press conference and will say more in tomorrow’s paper about the buyers and their plans.
Monsoon has warned of difficult trading again. The company, which is losing both its chief executive and finance director this month, blamed “difficult” trading on the high street and glitches with a new distribution centre.
Smith & Nephew, the UK medical device maker which has looked vulnerable to a bid since failing to buy Biomet last year, has agreed to buy Plus Orthopedics Holding, a privately-owned Swiss group, for SFr1.09bn ($889m) cash, including assumed debt.
Today is another big results day. Broker Collins Stewart reported strong growth in profits and turnover in its first set of results after December’s demerger of Tullett Prebon, its inter-dealer broker business. Pro forma pre-tax profits were £64.8m, up from £46.6m, on revenue of £184.8m compared to £148.7m for the year to December 31.
Bovis Homes has reported a 17 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to £135.5m. No update on the takeover speculation which has lifted the stock in recent days.
Other results include: Hiscox (good), Interserve (good, and past its accounting problem), Greggs (hit by mild winter and restructuring costs), Absolute Capital Management (good figures, welcomes recent market volatility) and Lookers (selling lots of Aston Martins and Range Rovers).
Rumour of the day: ICI shares are up nearly 6 per cent this afternoon on news that Akzo Nobel has torn up plans to float its medicines business in favour of an €11bn sale to Schering-Plough. Investors, who have long seen ICI as a bid target, were betting that the Dutch chemicals maker would use the proceeds to bid for its UK rival. Akzo said it was looking at making acquisitions that made “strategic sense”.
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