Bryant and Beazer merger thrown into confusion as Taywood and Persimmon bid for players.
Bryant and Beazer this week got ready to defend their planned merger against two hostile bids as a shake-up of housebuilding began.

Offers from Taylor Woodrow and Persimmon are due t o be lodged today. Taywood is understood to have been given a deadline of today to lodge a higher bid for Bryant and allow time for Bryant shareholders to consider the offer. The bid is expected to be 200p.

Persimmon also has until today to launch a formal offer for Beazer after it publicly expressed interest in buying the firm.

Both bids are expected to offer premiums for Beazer and Bryant shareholders, which analysts believe puts the Bryant/Beazer tie-up in a weak position.

One analyst said Persimmon and Taywood had greater managerial credibility than Beazer and Bryant.

A Bryant source admitted that the firm, which has rejected three offers from Taywood in the past week, was under pressure. He said: "I think that is fair. Cash is always attractive in the City." The source added that arguments for the Bryant and Beazer merger had been drowned out by the approaches. He said: "The deal was never given a chance to be detailed. The timings have been difficult."The deal, which would have created a new firm called Domus, was announced last month, Bryant shareholders were this week considering their options. Family shareholder Christopher Bryant said: "I don't know which way it will go. It's 50-50, I think." Another Bryant shareholder said: "Taylor Woodrow has to put more cash upfront. Until we see the new offer, it's premature to say which way we will go." A source close to Beazer claimed that Persimmon's and Taywood's approaches were hastily put together.

I don’t know which way it will go. It’s 50-50, I think

Cristopher Bryant, family shareholder

He said: "Both Taylor Woodrow and Persimmon have had since 14 December to come forward and make public approaches. But neither of them has done anything until the last week. It's just madness." A Taywood source admitted that time had been short. He said: "It was a little bit rushed. But this is a serious proposal." The frenzied activity has led to predictions of a major restructuring of quoted housebuilders that will leave a few big players and the disappearance of mid-sized firms from the stock exchange.

JP Morgan analyst Mike Betts said he did not know where the limit could be in the consolidation.

He said: "If you look at American housebuilders, they are worth £2bn on the market, nearly three times the size of the biggest UK housebuilders.

"Housebuilders have some way to go before they get on every fund manager's radar screen." Analysts have mooted a possible tie-up between Bellway and Barratt, which are both based in Newcastle.

The consolidation could also see medium-sized firms such as Wilson Bowden, Wilson Connolly and Prowting either being snapped up by a predator or follow the example of Fairview and Linden by delisting.

The key dates and major players

October 2000 John Low of Beazer and Peter Long of Bryant meet to discuss possible merger
Late 2000 Persimmon’s Duncan Davidson twice approaches Beazer in secret over a possible offer, but is rejected both times
7 December Taylor Woodrow’s Keith Egerton secretly approaches Bryant’s Peter Long and is later rejected
14 December Beazer and Bryant announce “merger of equals” to create Domus
8 January 2001 Taywood again approaches Bryant
9 January Persimmon again approaches Beazer
12 January Bryant rejects Taywood’s offer. Taywood raises offer. Some 77% of Beazer shareholders vote in favour of Bryant merger
15 January Bryant rejects Taywood’s latest offer. Taywood makes formal bid for Bryant, which is again rebutted. A Bryant EGM – which was due to approve merger with Beazer – is postponed 15 minutes before start