The bidding war for John Laing escalated on Friday as Henderson, the fund manager, announced it was offering £950m for the UK leader in infrastructure projects, topping an agreed offer from Allianz, the German insurer.

Henderson’s cash offer of 405p a share cash offer is a premium of 47 per cent to Laing’s share price on September 13, the day before the builder of roads, schools and hospitals revealed it had received a takeover approach.

Including preference shares, Henderson’s bid tops £1bn. The fund manager has offered 138p a share to holders of preference shares, valuing the preference share capital at about £54.3m.

Henderson said it would ask Laing’s board to recommend its new offer, which is a 5.2 per cent premium to an offer from Allianz, the German insurance group, agreed two weeks ago.

Laing’s shares started trading above the new offer on Friday morning as Allianz said it was “considering [its] options” and the market indicated it expected a higher bid.

In early trading, Laing rose 3.7 per cent to 423p.

Henderson’s original 355p a share offer in September was trumped a month later by Allianz, which bid 385p a share. Both bids were recommended by Laing’s board and were judged high by analysts.

The bidding war underlines the booming nature of the market for infrastructure assets, which has led to high returns for early entrants such as Australia’s Macquarie Bank.

Laing’s strong position in UK public-private partnerships - which have long maturities and high credit ratings - is part of its attraction to bidders.

The group has begun to help export the model of building public infrastructure projects with private finance, which has become established in the UK over the past decade.

Difficulties in its home market that caused a fall in first-half pre-tax profits in August from £13.8m to £12.3m, hurt by the fall-out from an accident at its Chiltern Railway franchise last year.

Henderson plans to buy Laing with the aid of a new £573.5m investment fund raised via its private equity arm and one of £330m raised last October.

Rothschild and JP Morgan Cazenove are advising Henderson; Greenhill is advising Laing.

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