• Old Mutual on Wednesday confirmed to Reuters that it doesn't support the bid by German-owned Aton for Murray & Roberts
  • Aton is offering shareholders R15 per share, and Allan Gray has agreed to sell its stake
  • But an independent board, established by M&R, has recommended that shareholders reject the offer. 

Old Mutual, one of the biggest shareholders in Murray & Roberts, does not want to sell its shares to the German conglomerate Aton, who wants to buy out the engineering company

The Murray & Roberts share price fell by half a percent to R13.39 on the news. It is still nowhere near R9.64 – the level it traded on Friday, before Aton’s bid.

Aton, which is owned by a German billionaire and headquartered in Munich, told M&R it wants to buy out all its shareholders for R15 per share in cash. It already owns a third of M&R and has also negotiated with Allan Gray to buy its 11% share.

But Old Mutual, which owns 5%, refuses to sell. “The offer of R15 per share is below what we believe is fair value. As a result we won’t be committing to sell into this price,” Brian Pyle, an analyst at Old Mutual’s equity investment arm, told Reuters.

An independent board, established by M&R directors to investigate the offer, has also recommended that shareholders do not accept the offer.

In a statement, the board said it found that the offer is opportunistic and “made at a time of unprecedented share price weakness”. It also said that the offer price of “materially undervalues the company based on its prospects”.

In addition, the board doesn’t think Aton will succeed in delisting Murray & Roberts from the JSE.

“Scenarios where Aton accretes its shareholding but does not delist Murray & Roberts presents risks to Murray & Roberts’ shareholders and Aton, including conflicts of interest, strategic misalignment and reduced strategic flexibility and potentially casts the company adrift into a protracted period of uncertainty as Aton gradually increases its shareholding and attempts occasionally to delist the company.”

In addition, the board said it is not clear how Aton proposes to manage “the dilution of Murray & Roberts’ B-BBEE ownership credentials” and the potential resultant impact on contracts.

Apart from being one of the largest engineering firms in the country, Murray & Roberts owns 50% of the Bombela Concession company, which operates the Gautrain rail service.

Aton is owned by Lutz Helmig and his wife and two daughters. A medical doctor, Helmig started one of the largest European private medical groups, Helios Hospitals. His personal wealth is estimated at R31 billion.

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