Monday’s announcement that WPP Group’s £5.55 per share cash offer for Tempus Group had gone unconditional [WAMN: 02-Oct-01] is de facto subject to other conditions, says WPP.

Given the post-attack dive in Tempus’ share value [Wednesday's opening price in London was £4.85], WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell is now feeling a tad exposed. In a statement issued Tuesday, WPP said its unconditional offer remains conditional on certain factors – approval of the deal by competition regulators and “no material adverse change or deterioration” in Tempus’ fortunes.

Sorrell is believed by insiders to be pinning his hopes on the latter escape route – although any appeal to the Takeover Panel based on this argument will not gain credence from WPP’s continued mopping-up of Tempus shares after the September 11 cataclysm.

Observers think Sir Martin will play a waiting game in the hope that Tempus shares will eventually revive to a point nearer WPP’s offer price. He may delay an appeal to the Takeover Panel until the European Union has pronounced on the matter – a process that could conveniently take several months.

Meantime, WPP’s own shares slipped Tuesday by £0.13 to £4.70.

News source: The Times (London)