JC Flowers withdraws

JC Flowers, the US private equity group that has been stalking UK insurer Friends Provident since mid-2007, has formally withdrawn its £3.5bn offer for the group. JC Flowers warned last week that if management would not agree to talks by last Friday, it would turn its back on the company.

JC Flowers has been looking at Friends since May 2007, when it was reported that it might join forces with AXA to make a bid for the company. Flowers then braved it alone, offering 175p per share in late 2007, an offer rejected by the Friends’ board. Flowers tried again in March of this year proposing 150p per share in cash, but this too was rejected. Takeover Panel rules state that should Flowers want to table a further bid for Friends Provident, it would have to wait at least six months.

Candover plans to press ahead with the flotation of yacht manufacturer Ferretti, hoping that the high-end nature of the company will allow it to evade some of the market turmoil. Candover bought Ferretti for €1.7bn in late 2006 from Permira, which had been marketing a competitive IPO of the company as part of a dual-track process for disposal of the stake.

This time around, the IPO will be conducted through a more traditional route. Mediobanca, which was appointed as domestic lead last time around, is believed to have retained its position on the forthcoming flotation, while Merrill Lynch has beaten its international rivals to a bookrunner role.

Somerfield’s owners might lower their asking price for the supermarket group if the Co-op improves other bid terms. Sources familiar with the talks confirmed that Apax Partners, Robert Tchenguiz, Barclays Capital and Kaupthing might accept a bid marginally below their minimum £1.9bn (€2.4bn) asking price for Somerfield if the Co-op improves other terms of its potential offer. The Co-op confirmed on April 17 that it was discussing a potential bid for Somerfield with the supermarket’s owners.

Chrysalis, the music group that sold its radio interests last year, has terminated discussions about the sale of the rest of the business. In early February, reports suggested that EMI, backed by private equity investor Terra Firma, as well as Warner and Sony were in a second round of bidding, with an offer predicted at around £170m. Now Chrysalis has said that after detailed discussions, it has received a firm proposal at 155p a share in cash. This has been “unanimously rejected” as it “significantly undervalues” the company. The board blamed the current market conditions for the low offer.

Bridgepoint, has junked plans to pursue an exit of Pets at Home, a pet shop chain it bought in 2004. Reports said that Bridgepoint had decided that a sale or flotation would not attract a deserving price during the current economic uncertainty. Last November, Bridgepoint appointed Rothschild, Citi and JPMorgan Cazenove to investigate a price of up to £650m through a sale or IPO.

Apax Partners, has launched a €13 per share takeover bid for D+S Europe, a German e-commerce service provider. An offer for the entire issued shares would be worth about €490m according to data from Reuters. D+S management has said that it supports the bid.