May 25, 2018 / 7:54 AM / 25 days ago

ATON raises bid for South Africa's Murray & Roberts, ups stake to 44 percent

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - German investment house ATON raised its takeover offer for Murray & Roberts (MURJ.J) by about 13 percent to $426 million on Friday, attempting to secure investor backing after the South African builder struck a deal of its own last week.

The offer underlines ATON’s determination to expand in Africa’s most industrialised economy, whose prospects have improved since Cyril Ramaphosa took over as president promising to root out corruption and push through business-friendly policies.

Murray & Roberts said its independent board would seek talks with ATON, led by German investor Lutz Helmig, on the revised offer that values Murray & Roberts at 7.6 billion rand ($610.31 million), based on total issued shares of 445 million.

The decision to raise its offer follows a move by ATON to increase its stake in Murray & Roberts to 44 percent at 17 rand per share, triggering a rule under South African capital market regulations to offer all shareholders the same amount.

That raised offer values the roughly 70 percent of shares ATON has acquired or is seeking to buy since it began its pursuit of Murray & Roberts at around $426 million.

ATON first made an offer in March at 15 rand per share, valuing the company at about 6.7 billion rand. At the time, ATON held a roughly one-third stake in Murray & Roberts.

The first offer was rejected by Murray & Roberts’ board and its second biggest shareholder, the Public Investment Corporation, as “opportunistic” and poor value for shareholders.

The new bid comes a week after Murray & Roberts said it had started talks on an all-share merger with local rival Aveng Ltd (AEGJ.J).

Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, Editing by Adrian Croft and Edmund Blair

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