Thursday, September 23, 1999

Ashland raises its ante

Superfos may approve this one

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ashland Inc. has agreed to sweeten its cash tender offer for Superfos Inc. by about 6.5 percent to 160 Danish kroner a share, provided that the board of the Copenhagen-based industrial company recommends the offer to shareholders.

        Covington-based Ashland said Wednesday that Superfos' chairmanship of Kjeld Ranum and Jens Erik Karlskov Jensen agreed to recommend the new offer, representing about $22.55 a share based on Tuesday's exchange rates, to shareholders.

        There was no immediate comment from Superfos, whose Dothan, Ala.-based highway construction business is coveted by Ashland. But Superfos' board was expected to meet within days to consider the new offer.

        “Our initial reaction is that it's a fair offer, and we'll consider it more closely,” Niels Erik Petersen of ATP, Denmark's largest pension fund, told Bloomberg Business News. ATP owns 14 percent of Superfos.

        Ashland's original tender offer was valued at $648.7 million plus assumed debt. The new offer is valued at $696 million plus debt.

        Superfos' management had refused to recommend Ashland's original offer of $21 a share for each of its 30.89 million shares, saying it was too low. The company also indicated last week that it was holding talks with third parties also interested in its U.S. highway construction business.

        Ashland launched its tender offer for all of Superfos, which includes specialty chemicals and packaging, in early August after the company said it wouldn't sell the highway construction business separately.

        Ashland spokesman Stan Lampe said his company considers the new conditional offer “significant progress.” This week, Ashland extended its tender offer of 150.18 Danish kroner, slated to expire Monday, until Sept. 29.

        Wednesday Superfos shares rose 14 kroner to 158 on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Ashland shares closed up 311/4 cents at $36.121/2.


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