Imperial Tobacco could be poised to make a third takeover approach to Gauloises cigarette maker Altadis, it was reported today.
UK-based Imperial is considering an approach to Spain’s CNMW stockmarket regulator over the acquisition of the firm, according to reports in Spain.
Altadis spurned Imperial’s latest £8.2bn (€12bn) attempt to secure the firm last week saying that the higher offer “continued to undervalue” the company. Imperial made its first £7.8bn (€11.5bn) approach in March.
The UK firm’s approach to the regulator would signal a move to formal negotiations with Altadis.
Imperial, whose shares were down in early trading, refused to comment.
Private equity firms including CVC, Cinven and PAI Partners have also been linked with a bid for Altadis since Embassy-maker Imperial made its first approach.
Altadis is set to resist further offers from Imperial because it is preparing a management buyout of the business backed by private equity, Spanish news agency Europa Press said.
Imperial said last week it had offered a “full and fair” price for Altadis, but the Madrid-based company has so far refused to open its books.
The firm, which also makes Regal and Lambert & Butler cigarettes, is currently the world’s fourth largest tobacco firm.
A tie-up with Altadis, the world’s number five, would see it close the gap on rivals Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco and British American Tobacco.
The move comes during a time of heavy consolidation in the tobacco sector as firms tackle declines in developed markets amid smoking bans and increasing trends towards healthy living.
Shareholders of Weybridge-based Benson & Hedges maker Gallaher have recently backed a £7.5bn (€11bn) bid from Japan Tobacco.