British panel delivers takeover ultimatum to Oberthur

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Britain's Takeover Panel on Monday ordered French banknote printer and chip card maker Oberthur to make an official offer for De La Rue, the world's largest printer of banknotes, by February 7.

De La Rue last month said it had rejected an informal bid from Oberthur worth about £900 million (1.1 billion euros, $1.4 billion).

The Takeover Panel on Monday issued a 'put up or shut up' ultimatum to Oberthur aimed a removing uncertainty from the market.

"Following discussions with both parties' advisers, the Panel Executive has ruled that ... Oberthur must, by 5:00 pm (1700 GMT) on 7 February 2011, either announce a firm intention to make an offer for De La Rue" or walk away, the Panel said.

Should Oberthur decide against a formal offer, the group would be unable to bid again for six months under British takeover rules, the Panel added in a statement.

In reaction, Oberthur urged shareholders of De La Rue to use the period until the deadline to demand that the group "substantiates its claim that Oberthur's indicative proposal does not reflect the fundamental value of the company.

"Oberthur believes that the Board of De La Rue has not yet articulated a meaningful response," it added.

De La Rue, which employs 4,000 staff across 24 countries, has struggled to overcome the impact of banknote production irregularities that hit the company in 2010.

Tim Cobbold took over as De La Rue chief executive on January 1. Cobbold, a former chief executive of British power systems group Chloride, replaced James Hussey, who resigned in August after De La Rue revealed the production failures.

De La Rue, whose history dates to 1813, produces currencies for more than 150 countries.

© 2011 AFP

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