Slaughters sways Panel on Hyder bid

Slaughter and May has persuaded the Takeover Panel to propose the untested sealed bid method to decide who will win ownership of utility giant Hyder.

US-based Western Power Distribution (WPD) and Japanese investment bank Nomura, advised by Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer respectively, have been fighting to take over Hyder for three months.

As exclusively revealed in The Lawyer (7 August) the sealed bid option was considered. It is understood that Slaughters, representing the utility company, suggested the sealed bid method – under which companies submit confidential offers for the company – after a protracted cat and mouse battle for Hyder.

It is the second time Slaughters has been involved in a sealed bid situation. In 1998, it represented the Energy Group, which was the target for Texas Utilities Company, represented by Norton Rose and PacifiCorp, advised by Linklaters & Alliance. But just 24 hours before offers were due to be submitted, Pacificorp pulled out of the race.

In 1983, the method was almost used for the fight between Allianz Versicher-ungs and BAT Industries for Eagle Star Holdings, but it remained untested.

During the three-month period, WPD and Nomura have raised their bids several times. But at the time of going to press the takeover timetable had hit day 46, meaning that both companies have to submit final offers.

The procedure will decide the winner, but the only potential hiccup is if the parties decide to use a formula rather than a fixed bid.

Under this, a party proposes to pay a certain amount over the price offered by its rival and will include a ceiling on the highest price it will pay.

A Takeover Panel spo-kesman says: “There have been discussions during the week between the parties on what process should be formed, by which a decision would be made by the end of the week.”