Herbies helps De La Rue fend off hostile bid by rival banknote printer

Herbert Smith has helped banknote printer De La Rue see off a hostile takeover attempt by French bidder Oberthur.

The offer, valuing the publicly owned entity at £900m, was withdrawn after the De La Rue board claimed the company was undervalued in a statement issued in advance of the Takeover Panel’s ’put up or shut up’ deadline.

Had it been successful, the deal would have been the first hostile takeover of a major UK-listed company since Kraft’s raid on ­Cadbury in 2009.

London corporate head David Paterson and fellow corporate partner Greg Mulley led the team for ­Herbert Smith on the takeover defence.

The City firm was initially instructed by longstanding client De La Rue, which prints notes for the Bank of England, last year when it became the subject of a fraud investigation. This came after production ­problems caused faulty notes to be printed, prompting the resignation of chief executive James Hussey.

The resultant drop in share price left the company open to hostile raiders.

“It became obvious that the company was vulnerable to a bid,” said Paterson.

“It was an opportunistic approach [from Oberthur], but equally the tactics were quite aggressive. They were very public in their criticism of the company and its ­position. In that sense it was unusual.”

In another unusual twist, Oberthur – the third-largest banknote printer globally – was said to have sought backing from a private ­equity group for its bid.

It is understood that Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom advised Oberthur. Lazard & Co was the ­financial adviser to the bid.