* Bidvest puts Feb. 4 deadline on its Adcock offer
* Conglomerate has raised stake in Adcock to 9 pct
* Adcock vote on rival bid has been twice delayed (Adds fund manager comment)
By David Dolan
JOHANNESBURG, Jan 16 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Bidvest Group will close its offer for a stake in drugmaker Adcock Ingram early next month, it said on Thursday, in what may be an attempt to speed up a takeover battle that has been waylaid by delays.
Bidvest, a conglomerate that spans shipping to auto sales, is attempting to thwart a takeover of Adcock by Chilean firm CFR Pharmaceuticals.
The Johannesburg-based company has lifted its holding in Adcock to 9 percent, Chief Executive Brian Joffe told Reuters, although he declined to say whether he was trying to put pressure on CFR or on shareholders in Adcock.
“We have a strategy which we want to implement and I really don’t want to be able to tell you what it is in advance,” he said.
Bidvest said in December it had around 7 percent of Adcock.
Santiago-based CFR has bid 12.8 billion rand ($1.2 billion) in cash and shares for Adcock, an offer shareholders were initially due to vote on last month.
The vote has been twice delayed - once to give shareholders more time to consider a sweetened bid from CFR and on the second occasion because regulatory approval of shareholder documents was taking longer than expected.
The vote is now likely to be held in mid-February.
Bidvest said its cash offer of 70 rand a share for 34.5 percent of Adcock will close at 1500 GMT on Feb. 4.
Bidvest’s Joffe, who has a long track record of turning around underperforming companies, has been attempting to take a substantial stake in Adcock since March last year.
“He wants to get it done sooner rather than later, and either move forward and get the business into the shape he can get it into or else move on,” said Nic Norman-Smith, chief investment officer at Lentus Asset Management.
“Putting people on terms is never a bad thing. I don’t think it is beneficial to any of the parties for it to drag on,” Norman-Smith added.
Joffe sees in Adcock an opportunity to roll out the drugmaker’s products in sub-Saharan Africa, where his firm has little presence.
Bidvest said in a statement Adcock has been subjected to “continuous delays” which have diverted the attention of its board and management away from operations.
“This has been exacerbated by the protracted process relating to the offer by CFR Pharmaceuticals,” it said.
CFR needs approval from investors with 75 percent of Adcock. The rare Chile-South Africa tie-up is almost certain to fail because South Africa’s state pension fund, which owns more than 22 percent of the drugmaker, is also opposed to CFR.
The state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has said it doesn’t want shares in CFR and wants to benefit directly from a turnaround at Adcock.
The PIC is also the top shareholder in Bidvest, leading to some speculation that Joffe is working with the fund to thwart CFR, something he has denied.
CFR, which wants to add fast-growing Africa to its businesses in Latin America and Asia, is offering 74.50 rand worth of cash and shares, based on a value of 2.334 rand per new CFR share.
Shares of Adcock were little changed at 70.5 rand at 1410 GMT, while shares in Bidvest were also steady.
$1 = 10.8837 South African rand Editing by Ed Stoddard and Anthony Barker