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Bid battle rages over Saia-Burgess

01 August, 2005

Two Far Eastern companies have been battling to take over the Swiss motor, actuator and controller manufacturer, Saia-Burgess. The skirmish began in late June when Japan`s Sumida Corporation announced that it was making an offer for Saia that valued the company at about £250m.

In early August, Saia`s board rejected the offer, saying that it undervalued the company and lacked "plausibility and industrial logic". It added that there was "no identifiable synergy potential" between Saia-Burgess and Sumida, which manufactures coils and filters, mainly for customers in the Asian automotive, communications and computer industries. The two companies` business models "could hardly be more different," Saia added.

Sumida retorted that its offer was a fair reflection of Saia`s value and that it "could significantly boost the modest returns that Saia-Burgess has been recording to date". It added that it wanted to keep Saia`s workforce, "in evident contrast" to Saia-Burgess board members "who have arranged for themselves an extended notice period of 24 months with the option of gardening leave".

In late August, the Hong Kong motor-maker Johnson Electric emerged as a "white knight" bidder with a £300m offer for Saia-Burgess which the Saia board recommended to its shareholders. There was no immediate response from Sumida which had, by then, acquired about 26% of Saia`s shares.

Saia`s board said that Johnson`s offer was "fair" and would allow it to continue its successful growth strategy under its own name and to operate as an independent business within a financially strong group. Saia, which employs 3,700 people worldwide and recorded sales of £245m in 2004, argued that a takeover by Johnson would help it achieve its 2008 sales goal of £430m (€1,000m).

The launch of Jonson`s bid was delayed by the Swiss anti-trust regulator which said it must revise its shareholder prospectus because the contract for the prospectus had been given to Ernst & Young, which was also working for Sumida. Johnson said that its offer period would run from 15-28 September. The Swiss authorities then ruled that Sumida`s offer should also be extended to run until 28 September.

Johnson is one of the world`s largest manufacturers of micromotors and integrated motor systems. It employs about 33,000 people in 15 countries and has annual revenues of more than $1.1bn.

Last month, Johnson made a $74.8m agreed bid for the US flexible interconnect manufacturer Parlex, which has manufacturing sites in the US, UK, China, and Mexico.

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