| PARIS, June 23
PARIS, June 23 In a fresh twist to the battle
for Club Mediterranee, Italian tycoon Andrea Bonomi is
challenging a regulator's decision to set an end-June deadline
for one of his funds to make a rival bid for the resort
operator, or be banned for six months from doing so.
Club Med is already being courted by French private equity
firm Ardian and Chinese conglomerate Fosun International
, which together have made a 557 million euro ($756
million) offer for the French pioneer of the all-inclusive
The AMF watchdog said last month it would not set a closing
date for the bid - a vital part of the regulator's handling of a
bid process - until Bonomi decided whether he would make a
counter offer, giving him until June 30 to clarify its position.
But Bonomi is challenging this stance.
"A request has been submitted," a spokesman for the Bonomi
family's BI-Invest fund said on Monday, after Le Figaro daily
said Investindustrial, one of the private equity funds led by
Bonomi and part of BI-Invest, was challenging the AMF decision.
The spokesman gave no reason for the challenge and the AMF
declined to comment.
A source close to the matter told Reuters the challenge had
been filed with the Paris Court of Appeal and a decision was
slated for July 2.
The watchdog had asked for clarity on Bonomi's intentions
towards Club Med after another one of his funds,
Luxembourg-based Strategic Holdings, became the company's top
shareholder last month with a stake of nearly 11 percent.
Club Med said earlier this month it had received an
"expression of interest" from Investindustrial on a possible
offer and had given the fund access to its financial data. But
so far Bonomi has not said if he would bid.
Strategic Holdings built its holding amid shareholder
resistance to the Fosun-Ardian offer, which at 17.50 euros per
share is well where Club med shares have been trading. They were
down 0.4 percent at 19.17 euros by 1056 GMT.
Ardian and Fosun have so far refused to raise their offer.
They could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
Should Investindustrial choose not to bid for Club Med by
1600 GMT on June 30, it would be barred from making an offer for
six months, the AMF has said, a situation Bonomi's lawyers argue
would penalise their client, according to Le Figaro.
A source close to the matter said Bonomi's challenge
reflected his reluctance to mount a bid for Club Med, while
another source close to the situation said it was likely to be
aimed at "leaving all doors open".
With a stock market value of 618 million euros and annual
sales of 1.4 billion, Club Med competes with hoteliers including
Intercontinental and Accor, as well as tour
operators such as TUI Travel and Thomas Cook.
Its recent drive to reinvent itself as an upmarket operator
has been stifled by an economic downturn in Europe, where it
still makes 70 percent of its revenue. Club Med is expanding in
fast-growing China, where it has three holiday villages after
opening a third on Dong'ao island last week.
Fosun, with a 9.96 percent stake, and Ardian, with 9.4
percent, have said their plan is to accelerate Club Med's shift
to China, which Club Med wants to make its second-biggest zone
after France by 2015.
As a private equity investor, Bonomi has a record of
reviving premium brands and reselling them for a healthy profit.
He is known for buying motorbike maker Ducati in 2006 and
selling it to Volkswagen's Audi in 2012 for about
860 million euros, three times the estimated initial investment.
Apart from deeming the Fosun-Ardian offer as too low, Bonomi
has been tight-lipped on his plans for Club Med.
"From what Investindustrial knows about Club Med at this
stage, it does not believe that the future of Club Med is solely
in China. There is also the rest of Asia, Russia, the Middle
East and Latin American families who travel more these days," a
source close to the matter told Reuters.
($1 = 0.7366 Euros)
(Additional reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by David