ICG meeting postponed as directors mull offer

THE independent directors of Irish Continental Group have postponed the extraordinary general meeting of ICG due to be held next Thursday to consider the €470 million offer by management for the company.

This follows the announcement yesterday by the Cork-based Doyle Group and One51 Capital that they are in discussions regarding a possible offer worth over €500m being made by them for the business.

A takeover battle for ICG is now likely to ensue.

The consortium said that having done due diligence it could make a bid in excess of €20 per share of the group that would add €35m at least to the initial MBO offer.

Their statement yesterday raises the possibility of an all out takeover battle for control of ICG, which runs Irish Ferries.

ICG chief executive Eamonn Rothwell and his management team were not available for comment last night.

Since the MBO was announced in early March One51 has bought 5.6% of the shipping group while Doyle Group has taken a lesser 3% stake.

Following persistent pressure from Irish takeover panel the two companies announced yesterday that, in the right circumstances, they will make a counter bid for ICG above €20 per share.

Shares in ICG have traded well above the €18.50 offer price form the group’s management and were up 55 cents to €20.05 last night.

The Doyle Group’s history goes back to 1900 and it has extensive shipping interests plus a land bank worth at least €250m in the Cork area.

One51 has a variety of investments including a 26% stake in NTR, the original toll road operator, and it has a common interest in the development of waste management and green energy.

Given the changed circumstances, the proposed management buyout looks increasingly doubtful at the current price of €18.50.

Hedge funds have bought into the business also and combined with the new consortium control over 25% of the equity.

Most of them also paid between €19.15 and €20.03 for their shares against the offer price of €18.50, indicating that in their view the company is worth more than the initial price put on the table.

Early yesterday morning ICG’s independent directors jumped the gun when they urged shareholders to accept the MBO price of €18.50.

That situation changed within hours.

On March 8, the independent directors announced a recommended €18.50 per share offer for ICG from Aella, the takeover vehicle set up by the management to acquire the business.

The egm to approve the acquisition was due to be held on April 12.

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