Thursday 10 April 2014

Metso back under the spotlight...

I have just picked up a rather interesting titbit about Weir Group's attempt to combine with the Finnish engineering company Metso.

Betaville readers will remember that I kicked off the story back in early March when some of sources told me "something is going on" with Metso and that FTSE 100-listed Weir Group may be looking to buy the business. Here is a link to the original story: spotlight.html

Well, I hear from excellent sources that Weir Group may be prepared to offer some cash for Metso. 

This could surprise some readers as Weir Group said in a statement (after Gary Parkinson of The Times landed the scoop about the blue chip company's £8.5bn merger talks with Metso) that it had submitted an indicative "all share merger proposal" for Metso. 

Media reports subsequently suggested that under the terms of the proposed deal, Weir Group's offer was pitched at a 5pc-10pc premium and Metso shareholders would receive about 40pc of the combined group. 

However, my sources tell me that Weir Group's banks have already lined up financing so that the industrial group can offer cash as part of any future revised proposal for Metso.

This could be because Weir Group is worried it will be trumped by a counter bidder for Metso.

Or, perhaps the cash element might persuade Metso's largest shareholders - some of whom are reported to be against the Weir Group approach - to back a fresh offer from the British industrial giant.

Weir Group declined to comment.

For readers interested in this story, I will be talking a bit more about it on Tip TV later this morning. Here is a link to Tip TV:

UPDATE: So, after speaking to Weir Group this morning and giving the company the opportunity to comment on my titbit, the company's spokesperson has completely changed tack from "no comment" and issued the statement below:

“Our all share merger Proposal is unchanged. We believe it is a good one. We have not been speaking to financing banks. It is not clear where this speculation has come from.”

Personally, I find the statement quite hilarious. The first part of the statement is what you call in journalistic parlance a classic "non-denial, denial" i.e. where the company's spokesperson denies something that hasn't actually been written in the original article to a rival news organisation that is looking to downplay a story.

If you look at my original article from this morning, you will see I wrote my sources have told me Weir Group is "prepared" to offer cash and may offer cash as part of "any future revised proposal". So, as Betaville readers can see, I'm not saying Weir Group has actually changed its original takeover proposal from a few weeks ago, as suggested by the company's spokesperson in this morning's statement.

Perhaps the pertinent question for any journalist to ask Weir Group is: are you prepared to add a cash element to your original all-share offer for Metso? I asked Weir Group's spokesperson this specific question after he sent me his statement and the reply was "no comment".

The Weir Group statement also says: "we have not been speaking to financing banks". Really? Because last time I checked Weir Group was working with Bank of America Merill Lynch and UBS (who are the company's longstanding advisers) on the merger transaction with Metso and my sources tell me it is these banks that have been asked to look at financing options on the company's behalf. A Weir Group spokesperson declined to comment on whether Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS are advising and financing Weir Group on the Metso transaction.

Weir Group's final comment is just plain bizarre:"it is not clear where this speculation is coming from". I am not sure what Weir Group is trying to imply here but last time I checked the United Kingdom is a liberal democracy.

Anyway, I will let loyal Betaville readers decide what the actual reality of the situation is and whether Weir Group may be "prepared" to offer some cash for Metso.

As for Weir Group and its army of highly paid advisers, they should really be asking themselves why they actually care what I (an unemployed blogger) write!   

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