* Top investors Fosun, Axa raise bid to 17.5 euros/share
* Club Med board accepts improved offer
* Board-represented investors to tender their shares
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, June 25 A Chinese investor and a French
private equity firm have won over Club Med with an
improved 557 million euros ($729 million) takeover bid, seeking
to accelerate a shift at the holiday resorts pioneer to
fast-growing emerging markets.
China's Fosun International and AXA Private Equity
, who have teamed up with Club Mediterranee management
and are already the firm's biggest shareholders, said on Tuesday
they would pay 17.5 euros a share for the stock they do not
already own, up from their previous offer of 17 euros.
Club Med's board said it would back the deal and several of
its top shareholders pledged support after staying mum on the
previous offer. One small shareholders' group had called the
initial price too low.
At 1100 GMT, Club Med shares were up 0.8 percent at 17.45
euros, close to the agreed offer price, although well below
their 2007 high of almost 50 euros.
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. A
more recent drive to recast itself as an upmarket operator has
been hampered by a flagging European economy.
Fosun and Axa, along with Chief Executive Henri Giscard
d'Estaing, plan to accelerate Club Med's expansion in markets
such as China to help it cope with tough trading in Europe,
where it still makes over 70 percent of its revenue.
The company has said it aims to operate five villages in
China by 2015, including three by the end of this year.
Beyond China, Club Med is speeding up expansion in Russia
and Brazil, with the goal to lift the contribution of emerging
markets to sales to 33 percent by 2015 from around 25 percent.
The firm, which operates around 70 resorts worldwide,
competes with global hoteliers including Intercontinental
and Accor, as well as tour operators such as
TUI Travel and Thomas Cook
"A GESTURE TO WIN"
The new offer represents a 26.4 percent premium to the
closing price on May 24, the day before the initial bid was
announced, and was described by a source close to the bidders as
"a gesture to win the backing of all shareholders".
ADAM, a minority-shareholder advocacy group, told Reuters
last month it had been approached by some small shareholders
unhappy with the 17 euros a-share bid.
ADAM could not immediately be reached for comment.
Shareholders represented on the board and holding a combined
14.9 percent of Club Med capital have decided to tender their
shares to the raised bid, Club Med said in a statement.
Because the buyers 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 of the capital.
Under the buyers' plan, a joint venture 46 percent owned by
Fosun, 46 percent by Axa Private Equity and 8 percent by 400
Club Med managers will control the resorts
Fosun's interests also include insurance and mining.
Shareholders including Caisse de Depot et de Gestion du
Maroc, which has a 7.1 percent stake, have decided to tender
their shares, AXA Private Equity and Fosun said in a statement.
Other top shareholders that have accepted the offer include
Saudi conglomerate Rolaco - with a 5.6 percent stake - and
Italy's Holding Edizione Benetton - which holds 2.2 percent.