Oil services company John Wood Group rejects £1.4bn takeover offer

The British oil services company John Wood Group has rejected a £1.4bn takeover offer from a Dubai-based rival, Sidara, which “fundamentally undervalued” the company.

Aberdeen-based Wood is the latest British company on the London Stock Exchange to face takeover speculation amid deepening concerns that UK-listed stocks are undervalued compared with other markets.

In a statement, the Wood board said the FTSE 250 company had received an unsolicited approach from Sidara to snap it up for a price of 205p a share, but had unanimously rebuffed the offer.

“The board carefully considered the proposal, together with its financial advisers, and concluded that it fundamentally undervalued Wood and its future prospects,” it said.

A spokesperson for Sidara declined to comment.

The approach emerged about a year after the US-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management abandoned a 240p-a-share bid for Wood after multiple attempts and offers, without citing any reasons.

Wood is not alone in being a London-listed takeover target. A multibillion-pound bidding war appears to be developing around the FTSE 100 miner Anglo-American after it dismissed an offer from rival BHP as undervalued. The Swiss mining company Glencore is also understood to be drawing up an approach and there is speculation that the British-Australian miner Rio Tinto could follow suit.

Last year, BP was forced to assure investors it was not a takeover target as its shares continued to lag rivals in the US.

Wood’s share price is well below its pre-pandemic levels of about 600p a share. It jumped from 164p to 204p a share in early trading on Wednesday after the company statement, before settling at about 188p by lunchtime.

It is under pressure to revive its floundering market valuation after an activist investor, Sparta Capital Management, called on the Wood board to undertake a strategic review of the business and “actively seek alternative solutions” to its lagging UK share price – including a possible sale.

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Franck Tuil, who founded Sparta in 2021 after leaving the investment firm Elliott Asset Management, said: “If the UK public markets are unwilling or unable to engage in Wood’s story, we believe you should undertake a strategic review and actively seek alternative solutions.”

He added that it might be “time to recognise that the next chapter of Wood’s journey could be best supported by different owners”, and urged the group to “explore the best way to maximise shareholder value, including a sale of the company”.


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