US and Japanese law firms are locking horns over a bid by UK-based Cable & Wireless (C&W) to buy Japanese-based International Digital Communications (IDC).
C&W has offered u347m in cash for IDC. But Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, Japan's largest telecoms operator, has put in a bid to buy the company in stocks and cash for less than is now being considered - five days before C&W's tender offer closes.
A source says: "The feeling is that the Japanese government wants IDC to stay Japanese. There have been various means employed to block out C&W."
Japan signed the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), which has an annex saying there must be "no limitations on market access".
But the source says: "They are trying to bypass the annex. This is a legal battle with the Japanese."
C&W's legal advisers - which include Robert Grondine at White & Case in Tokyo, Chris Lunding at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and Tokyo firm Tomotsune Kimura & Mitomi - refused to comment.
A C&W spokesman says: "We are disappointed with the situation."