* Holders would look carefully at 1,500p bid-large investor
* Second investor says 1,650-1,700p closer to actual value
* 1,650p-1,700p “totally unreasonable” - consortium source
(Adds comment from source close to consortium)
By Raji Menon
LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Major investors in Forth Ports Plc FPT.L have backed its decision to reject an approach from a trio of shareholders and hold out for a higher bid.
Top investors who met the management last week told Reuters they had encouraged the group to engage with the consortium of would-be buyers to arrive at a “sensible price”.
Earlier this month, Britain’s only listed ports company rejected a second bid approach from the Northstream consortium which valued the Scottish company at 1,340 pence per share.
The consortium, which already owns 27.4 percent of Forth Ports shares, includes infrastructure investors Arcus and the Peel Group. [ID:nLDE624216]
“For us and other shareholders, we don’t want to hold out for an unrealistic amount. We encourage them to engage with the shareholders who are making the bid and see if they can get them to pay a higher and full value for the company,” one investor near the top of the share roster told Reuters.
He added: “If the consortium were willing to pay 1,500 pence, a lot of shareholders would look very carefully at that and would want management to also look at that.”
However, broker Nomura in a note last week suggested a possible price of 1,650 pence to 1,700 pence for a revised offer.
Another top investor said: “We think Nomura are closer in terms of what they think it’s worth and we are pretty clear on that and that’s the message we have given the company.”
A source close to the consortium however said the valuation of 1,650 pence to 1,700 pence was “totally unreasonable”.
“This could drag on for months, but at the end we could walk away,” the source told Reuters.
Industry observers have said that a new offer from the consortium was likely to come in at around the 1,500 pence per share mark. [ID:nLDE62B0F8]
A third major investor added: “We have to see if the consortium comes up with a sensible price. We are keen for the company to talk to them (but) we are not in any rush for a deal.”
Last week, Forth Ports Chief Executive Charles Hammond said the company had agreed to meet the bidding consortium to set out its growth prospects.
“Although the company might be worth 2,000 pence in a few years time, that value is uncertain and it’s a few years away and it’s got to be discounted to the present day. That gets you quite a bit closer to where the share value is today,” said the first investor.
He added that even taking into account the company’s property portfolio, it was not currently “hugely undervalued”.
Forth Port shares, which were trading at 1,117 pence before the bid was announced, closed at 1,390 pence, down 6 pence or 0.43 percent.
Forth Ports declined to comment. Northstream was not immediately available to comment. (Additional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in Berlin and Quentin Webb in London) (Editing by David Cowell)