WorleyParsons warns regulator about top shareholder's stake raise move

(Reuters) - Australian industrial engineering company WorleyParsons Ltd WOR.AX said on Wednesday it has informed the country's foreign investments regulator of "creeping acquisitions" by its biggest shareholder, Dubai-based Dar Group.

WorleyParsons had rejected a $2.2 billion full takeover bid from Dar Group in 2016, and Dar now owns about 20.2% of the Australian company, according to Refinitiv data.

WorleyParsons’ announcement came in response to a report on Tuesday by the Australian Financial Review that Worley had told the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) Dar was seeking to take control of the company and that it believed the move would be against Australia’s national interest.

The AFR report added that Worley has requested the regulator to reject an application by Dar Group in which it has sought the regulator’s permission to increase its stake.

Dar Group did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

WorleyParsons said in a statement it went to the FIRB after Dar bought some of its shares and requested representation on the WorleyParsons board, which the Australian company did not believe was in shareholders’ best interests.

“Worley... is entrusted with sensitive information and performs a vital role for customers and governments in Australia, the USA and globally on projects and infrastructure that are of a critical nature,” it said.

WorleyParsons shares were up as much as 3.7% on Wednesday morning, and later shed some of the gains to be up 2.6%. The broad Australian stock market .AXJO was up 0.8%.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Byron Kaye and Muralikumar Anantharaman