Hollinger Grants More Time for Asset Disposal Bids

06 February 2004

Hollinger International [H-Intl], the publishing group in which Lord Conrad Black's Hollinger Incorporated [H-Inc] holds a controlling stake, on Thursday extended by seven days the bid deadline for the group -- in part or entirety. Otherwise the deadline would have expired yesterday.

The extension flies in the face of the offer agreed between Black and Britain's eremitic Barclay twins, who have offered $466.5 million (€371.8m; £254.11m) for Black's key holding. The duo have reportedly received regulatory clearance to purchase Black's stock, the deal being held back only by legal action initiated by other H-Intl shareholders.

According to a confidential letter from H-Intl's appointed go-between, Lazard, bidders have another week to make "non-binding indications of price" for the company's assets. Among those interested are Britain's Daily Mail & General Trust and Express Newspapers, along with America's Gannett Company and a number of private equity firms. Over fifty parties are said to have requested sales details.

But the asset sale is complicated by fears the Barclays' offer for H-Inc will prove a legal barrier to any disposals by US-listed H-Intl. Both sides have launched legal actions, the first of which will be heard in Delaware later this month.

This will consider Black's plea to impose new company by-laws to prevent H-Int's sale of group assets. In a counter suit, H-Int seeks court permission to issue new shares to dilute Black's controlling interest.

The question many investors now ask is this: will there be any disposable assets left once the legal and financial industries have squeezed the milch-cow dry?

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff