Murray & Roberts advertising board.
JOHANNESBURG - Murray & Roberts said on Friday it had asked South Africa’s competition authorities to stop its biggest shareholder from fully exercising its voting rights that could be use to block its tie-up with rival construction firm Aveng.

Murray & Roberts, a major South African construction firm, has been in tug of war with its top investor ATON since March when the German investment house launched a $400 million takeover bid, which was rejected as poor value for shareholders.

To ward off ATON, which had taken the offer directly to shareholders, Murray & Roberts proposed an all-share merger with rival Aveng last month.

“We have applied to the Competition Tribunal to restrict ATON’s voting rights on the deal to the shareholding they had before they made the offer,” said Murray & Robert’s spokesman Ed Jardim.

When it first made the offer in March, ATON - led by German investor Lutz Helmig - held roughly 29 percent of Murray & Roberts. It has since raised that roughly 44 percent - large enough to scupper Murray & Roberts-Aveng tie-up.

The deal needs backing from shareholders with 75 percent of the voting rights, and ATON is against it.

Separately, ATON said it would oppose Murray & Roberts’ application.

“The application is another attempt by Murray & Roberts to frustrate ATON’s offer,” ATON said in a statement. 

- REUTERS