Falmer firm fends off takeover talk

Posted On 24 Jan 2010 at 9:49 pm

Southern Water’s maintenance partner Mouchel has stepped up its fight to stave off a takeover by its rival infrastructure company VT Group.

Mouchel is joint owner of Holleran Mouchel, based in Falmer. Its Brighton-based staff undertake all the “reactive and planned maintenance work to the existing sewerage network for Southern Water”, according to the utility company.

VT has made two approaches to buy Mouchel, which also has an office in Haywards Heath.

Each time, VT Group has been rebuffed. It criticised Mouchel for rejecting its latest approach valued at £385 million.

Now the Takeover Panel – a City regulator – has stepped in, issuing a “put up or shut up” statement to VT Group.

It has set a deadline of Monday 8 March under the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers.

The panel said: “VT must, by 5pm on 8 March, either announce a firm intention to make an offer for Mouchel or announce that it does not intend to make an offer for Mouchel.”

If it walks away without making a formal offer, it cannot return to the fray for six months.

Mouchel is seen as vulnerable to a takeover because it was more than £100 million in debt at the end of July.

Mouchel believes that the offer from VT Group undervalues it. Employees will be concerned that a takeover could lead to job losses.

Despite the uncertainty, there is no suggestion that the contract with Southern Water is at risk in the immediate future.

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