Murray & Roberts advertising board.
JOHANNESBURG - German family-owned investment holding firm Aton, which has made a hostile takeover bid for listed Murray & Roberts (M&R), claims it has received further interest from shareholders to its offer. However, Aton did not provide any details of further commitments by major shareholders in M&R to support the offer.

Aton, in a statement issued on Friday, referred only to the beneficial interest of 39.8percent it held in the group on April 17 and to making “good progress” following the opening of its offer.

M&R last month urged its shareholders who had submitted the required instruction accepting the R15 a share takeover offer from Aton to consider retracting the instruction.

In its official response to the conditional offer by Aton that was posted to shareholders last month, M&R’s independent board was critical of Aton’s offer in terms of its price, structure, strategic rationale and future prospects for M&R.

Ed Jardim, the group investor and media executive at M&R, said on Friday Aton’s statement mentioned good progress following the opening of the offer and having received further interest, but did not disclose if shareholders had actually tendered their shares.

“Aton will make the results of the offer public when the offer closes and only at that stage will we know if they have achieved their objective,” he said.

Aton’s offer would lapse if it was not declared unconditional in terms of acceptances received by June 14.

The company owned a 33percent stake in M&R in March this year when it announced its intention to make an offer for M&R.

It advised M&R at the time that it had obtained an irrevocable undertaking from asset manager Allan Gray on behalf of its clients, representing about 10.9percent of M&R’s ordinary share capital, to accept the Aton offer.

However, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the second largest shareholder in M&R with a shareholding of 20.157percent, and financial services conglomerate Old Mutual, which has an about 5percent shareholding, have both indicated they would be rejecting Aton’s offer.

The PIC said Aton’s R15 a share offer undervalued M&R, whose independent board has publicly stated that it viewed a fair value price range for control of the group as R20 to R22 an M&R share. Aton said on Friday its next step was to file its merger notification with the Competition Commission by no later than May 24.

It said M&R would also file its separate merger notification in terms of the commission’s rules. “Despite numerous engagements, the M&R board made its intentions clear to Aton that it would not co-operate, following which Aton made an application to the commission to file separately."

Jardim stressed on Friday that M&R could not yet be sure that Aton would achieve its stated intention of acquiring 50percent plus one share in M&R.

M&R shares closed 0.26percent lower on the JSE on Friday at R15.47.