* Year-old Gaillon bid below Club Med share price
* Offer extended on day it was due to close
* Italian businessman Bonomi told to reveal intentions
* Court rejects Gaillon lawsuit against Benetton (Adds court decision, Gaillon lawyer reaction, details, updates shares)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, May 23 (Reuters) - The French market regulator has extended a deadline for shareholders of Club Mediterranee to decide on a 557 million euro ($761 million) takeover bid while it seeks clarity on the intentions of a new investor in the holidays group.
The year-old, 17.50 euros per share bid from Chinese conglomerate Fosun and French private equity firm Ardian was due to close later on Friday.
But regulator AMF extended the bid’s closing date to June 6 and said it had asked Strategic Holdings, a company led by Italian businessman Andrea Bonomi, to make public its intentions towards Club Med by May 26 at 1600 GMT.
Bonomi has built a stake of more than 10 percent in Club Med, making it the largest investor amid shareholder resistance to the Fosun-Ardian offer.
Founded in 1950, Club Med was a pioneer of the all-inclusive holiday resort. But the company has faced tough competition in the last decade in which it made an unsuccessful expansion into services. Club Med’s more recent drive to recast itself as an upmarket operator has also been hampered by a weak European economy.
The Fosun-Ardian offer, through their bid vehicle Gaillon Invest, has been much delayed by litigation and sits well below Club Med’s 19 euros-plus share price - a sign investors think it is unlikely to succeed. The stock was unchanged at 19.20 euros on Friday.
A source close to the situation told Reuters on Thursday one of Bonomi’s other holding companies, Investindustrial Private Equity, might bid should the Gaillon offer fail to get the 50 percent acceptance it needs. A report in newspaper Les Echos said Bonomi considered 21 to 25 euros a share a fair price.
Strategic Holdings early on Friday repeated a position it gave on Tuesday, that Investindustrial “could look at such a (bid) situation, especially if Club Med’s ownership situation was unstable and the company was better suited to the private market”.
Two others sources with knowledge of the process said the AMF wanted more clarity on the structure of Bonomi’s holdings and a more direct statement on its intentions.
A spokesman at Strategic Holdings said it would comply with the AMF request. Club Med declined to comment, while Gaillon welcomed the regulator’s move.
In a setback for Gaillon on Friday, the Paris Commercial Court dismissed its lawsuit against 2 percent Club Med shareholder, the Benetton family’s Edizione holding company. Gaillon had protested against Benetton’s decision to withdraw support for the bid.
A spokesman for Edizione said the ruling was based on a view that the backing had never been qualified as irrevocable.
Olivier Diaz, a lawyer for Gaillon Invest, confirmed the decision had gone against his client. He said Gaillon had yet to decide whether it would appeal. The court could not be reached for immediate comment.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Benjamin Mallet, additional reporting Paolo Arosio in Milan, Matthieu Protard in Paris; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Erica Billingham and Pravin Char