UP to six of Britain’s biggest companies will face hostile foreign takeovers this year, a City grandee forecast yesterday.
Lord Myners, who fought off Sir Philip Green’s bid to buy MARKS & SPENCER in 2004, warned “everything is up for sale” in the UK.
He called for rules to be tightened, to make British companies less vulnerable in an era when the weak pound makes them attractive takeover targets.
The businessman spoke out after Marmite-maker UNILEVER knocked back a £115billion bid from KRAFT HEINZ last month. Unilever is said to be considering a £6billion sale of its underperforming Flora and Stork brands to cut costs, appease shareholders and make itself less vulnerable.
Lord Myners said: “It is easier to buy a company in the UK then anywhere else in the world.
“We are the permissive zone of foreign and domestic takeovers, largely because the rules are driven by financiers who earn big fees and great incentives to do deals.“My forecast is that five or six FTSE 100 companies will receive takeover bids this year.”
He added: “It simply isn’t right that the future of a company, the destiny of its employees should be decided by people in the City in a period of 20 days”.
Calling the UK a “garage sale” where “everything is up for sale if the price is right”, he said that companies were not “assets to be traded”, but that they were there to be “built up”.
BURBERRY saw off “multiple” takeover bids from US giant COACH last year, and ITV and SEVERN WATER have both been linked with possible bids in the past.
Despite the vulnerability of FTSE 100 firms, VODAFONE, which is on the index, yesterday clinched a deal to merge with IDEA CELLULAR to become India’s biggest mobile phone service.
It struck a deal with Idea’s owner, the Indian group ADITYA BIRLA GROUP, with the new company serving 400m customers.
Mary’s icing on the cake
TELLY favourite Mary Berry is preparing to launch her own cake range through baker FINSBURY FOOD. The ex-Great British Bake Off judge, 81, has worked on nine products for the firm — thought to include a walnut loaf and lemon drizzle cake. The treats will go on sale in the second half of 2017. Finsbury Food yesterday announced sales of £156.6million in the 26 weeks to last December 31 — the same figure it recorded during the same period in 2015.