Latecoere to examine Searchlight's $414 million bid offer

PARIS (Reuters) - French aeronautics company Latecoere LAEP.PA said it would examine a 365 million euros (325.83 million pounds) takeover offer from investment firm Searchlight Capital.

Searchlight, which already owns 26% of Latecoere’s share capital, made an offer of 3.85 euros per share on June 28, marking a premium of 34% to Latecoere’s closing price on Friday.

Latecoere shares rose 32% to 3.79 euros in early trading on Monday, just below Searchlight’s offer price.

Latecoere said it would appoint an independent expert and consult employees’ representative bodies to examine the offer.

“The board of directors of the company will issue its reasoned opinion after the issuance of the report of the independent expert and the opinion of the employees’ representative bodies,” Latecoere added on Monday.

One minority shareholder - Sterling Strategic Value which says it has a 3.48% stake in Latecoere - said Searchlight’s offer was not good enough and that Latecoere should consider any other offers coming its way.

“We believe that the price offered does not reflect the opportunities for Latecoere from continued growth in the global aerospace market (particularly given the company’s leading market positions in aircraft doors and interconnection systems) and potential operational improvements within the firm,” Sterling Strategic Value said.

In April, activist fund Searchlight - whose main offices are in New York, London and Toronto - bought an initial 26% stake in Latecoere, in the latest example of activist funds targeting companies which they feel could perform better.

Activist investors have been snapping up stakes in companies they feel are underperforming in a volatile economic environment, pushing for changes in strategy to extract more value for shareholders.

In France, activist hedge fund Elliott has been piling pressure on drinks group Pernod PERP.PA, while Amber Capital has acquired a stake in media company Lagardere LAGA.PA.

Latecoere shares slumped by around 50% in 2018, and the company had to cut its earnings outlook in December due to the impact of costs related to restructuring and starting-up new production units.

Latecoere is one of France's historic aviation and aerospace companies. It was founded by Pierre-Georges Latecoere in 1917 and is a partner to companies such as Airbus AIR.PA, Dassault Aviation AVMD.PA and Boeing BA.N.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Jason Neely