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February 6: You have to admire their timing. British Titanium, an unquoted titanium producer, has lodged a $400m legal claim against Qinetiq five days before conditional trading in the stock begins. The suit concerns some sort of sub-licence to British Titanium and Qinetiq says it will have no material impact on it. The claim was disclosed in Qinetiq’s supplementary prospectus, out today.
The tangled story of WPP’s troubles in Italy rumbles on. Sir Martin Sorrell said last night in an interview with Jeff Randall and me on Radio 5’s Weekend Business that he is suing his former country officer in Italy, Marco Benatti. He also talks quite openly about the structure of the group and the difficulty with knowing how much power to devolve to the local level. You can listen to the interview online. There were interesting discussions with others about gas prices, whether football is a real business, whether Boots’ merger with Alliance Unichem will get referred and whether Fred Turok will ever float LA Fitness again (answer: quite possibly). Quite separately, WPP has made a small US acquisition today.
The battle for Reg Vardy inched closer to a conclusion today when, not surprisingly, the board recommended Pendragon’s new 900p a share cash offer, which came after the market closed on Friday. The market seems to have given up fully on Pendragon pursuing its parallel attempt to buy Lookers, which was also bidding for Reg Vardy but only offered 875p. Pendragon has proposed a share-based offer which would have valued Lookers at about 600p a share. However, Lookers stock is off 35p at 572p today. The likelihood is that Lookers will only get cheaper if Pendragon bides its time, but the company hasn’t said anything yet. Reg Vardy shares are up 36½p at 894½p, which suggests few people are banking on Lookers raising its own offer. Pendragon shares, meanwhile, are up more than 6 per cent: clearly nobody is very worried that Pendragon might be over-paying.
Great shame: AWG, which owns Anglian Water, has settled its £130m lawsuit against Scottish businessman Sir Fraser Morrison. The dispute centred on AWG’s acquisition of Sir Fraser’s construction company, Morrison, in 2000 and had promised to be both interesting and entertaining. AWG had alleged that Morrison’s profit forecasts and prospects had been inflated.
Michael Jackson is, according to the Daily Telegraph, to step down as chairman of Sage, Britain’s largest technology company. He will make room for Sir Julian Horn-Smith, who is stepping down as deputy chief executive of Vodafone. The story sounds right.
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