Court to rule on Club Med bid challenge April 29
PARIS Feb 27 (Reuters) - A Paris court will rule on April 29 on a shareholders challenge to a bid by China's Fosun International and French private equity firm Ardian for holiday operator Club Med.
"The presiding magistrate will say on April 29 whether or not he accepts the challenges," Catherine Berjal, head of Charity Investment Asset Management (CIAM), one of the plaintiffs, told Reuters by phone.
She was speaking after the court held a hearing on the complaints of two minority shareholders groups earlier in the day. The plaintiffs are challenging the offer on the basis that it is too low at 17.50 euros per share and offers favourable terms to the management that has agreed to it.
Club Med lawyer Jean-Pierre Martel said he was "totally confident in the outcome of the case" as there was "no ground to these challenges".
Berjal declined to give a view on the outcome.
CIAM represents minority shareholders holding a little under one percent of Club Med's capital, Berjal said.
Fosun and Ardian, the former Axa Private Equity, initially planned on offering 17 euros, but revised their offer to 17.50 euros in June 2013.
The bid for Club Med - headed by chief executive Henri Giscard d'Estaing - opened on July 17 and was due to run until Aug. 30, but was extended until further notice after shareholders issued a legal challenge.
Founded in 1950 and listed since 1966, Club Med was a pioneer of the all-inclusive holiday resort.
But it fell on hard times in the past decade because of stiff competition and an unsuccessful expansion into services, and its more recent drive to recast itself as an upmarket operator has been hampered by a flagging European economy.
Fosun, with a 9.96 percent stake, and Ardian, with 9.4 percent, have said they wanted to accelerate Club Med's shift to fast-growing emerging markets like China.
Shareholders represented on the board and holding a combined 14.9 percent of Club Med capital have said they would tender their shares to the raised bid.
Because the buyers themselves hold a combined 19.33 percent stake, this means they have already secured 34.23 percent of Club Med's capital. The offer will be declared successful if the bidders secure at least 50 percent.
Club Med shares have gained 0.06 percent so far this year, giving the company a market value of 554 million euros.
At 1058 GMT, Club Med shares were up 0.17 percent at 17.44 euros.
The shares have risen 26 percent since news of the takeover plan in May 2013. The stock is however trading well below its 2007 high of almost 50 euros.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, additional reporting by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Andrew Callus)
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