Germany's Hochtief takes new anti-takeover step in Australia

20th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

German building firm Hochtief said on Wednesday it would apply to authorities in Sydney to force Spanish suitor ACS to buy one of its Australian subsidiaries, in a move to fend off its own takeover.

ACS, Spain's biggest construction company, already holds just under 30 percent of Hochtief and wants to take a majority holding to create what would be the world's largest building firm.

However, the Spaniards offered a price below Hochtief's current market value and the German group rejected the takeover offer.

In an attempt to stymie the deal, Hochtief applied to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to force ACS to buy Leighton, listed on the Sydney Stock Exchange and a subsidiary of the German firm.

ASIC refused to rule on the matter, prompting Hochtief to turn to Australia's Takeover Panel.

"Hochtief intends to apply to the Panel to decide on whether ACS should be required to make an offer to the Leighton shareholders," a company statement said.

But in a statement from Madrid, ACS said it was confident the Takeover Panel would rule in its favour.

"ACS will proceed with its offer for Hochtief as planned and expects the acceptance period to begin by the end of November," ACS said.

"Following the successful completion of the (takeover) offer, ACS will support Hochtief continuing its successful 27-year relationship with Leighton in its existing form."

The Spanish plans have come under fire in Germany but Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that she would not intervene directly, although she would prefer the company headquarters to remain in Germany.

© 2010 AFP

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