Takeover panel changes tune over bid deadlines after shareholders fail to support offer made by Cherry family

The battle for property company Countryside Properties took an unexpected twist this week when the takeover panel gave investment company Rock Pacific more time to make a bid.

The announcement was made after it became clear on Tuesday that the 275p-a-share offer by chairman Alan Cherry had not received enough shareholder backing by the deadline at 1pm.

The panel has now given Rock until Monday to put forward an offer for Countryside.

The decision to extend the deadline comes days after Rock, which is based in the Bahamas and controls 28.1% of shares, said it had too little time to mount a bid.

The panel had stipulated originally that Rock had to submit a bid by 10 January and could only re-enter the fight with its approval after that.

Countryside’s independent committee, advised by Rothschild, has continued to urge shareholders to support the offer from the Cherry grouping. As Building went to press this offer was still the only offer on the table. However, it is unlikely that its 275p offer will succeed because at the deadline it had only received 43.3% of shareholder support, well short of the 90% required.

If Rock, which was set up by Paul Kemsley and is backed by billionaire Joe Lewis, does make a formal offer for the company by midday on Monday, the takeover timetable will start again from the beginning.

However, any bid it made would have to be pitched at a level of at least 280p. Countryside could then come back with a higher offer.

The decision by the takeover panel to give Rock more time to consider its position was met with surprise in the City. Ben Money-Coutts, director at Bridgewell Securities, said:

“It is pretty unusual to see a timetable unwound in this fashion.”

If Rock does not make a rival offer, the Cherry family has been given a fresh deadline of midnight on 2 February to secure sufficient shareholder support.

It has been a roller-coaster year for Countryside, which has issued two profit warnings. Its shares have recovered 50% from a low of 187p in August to 281p on Tuesday.

Cherry first announced his intention to mount a bid for the company in September, after the first profit warning.