LONDON Waste-collection company Biffa BIFF.L agreed to a 1.2 billion-pound takeover by a private-equity consortium on Friday yet left open the chance of another bid emerging.
Biffa accepted an offer of 350 pence per share from Montagu Funds, General Electric's (GE.N) Global Infrastructure Partners and UCIL but said a third party was still looking at its books, sending the shares even higher.
Shares in Biffa, which collects, treats and recycles waste and provides disposal services throughout Britain, rose 12.7 percent to 369-1/2 pence.
British financier Guy Hands's buyout firm Terra Firma and France-based utility Suez LYOE.PA are among the parties looking AT Biffa, sources familiar with the matter said, adding it was not clear whether a counter-offer would emerge.
UK-based buyout firm CVC is also in the fray, although its interest is less advanced, the sources said.
Seymour Pierce analyst Kevin Lapwood said at 350p, Biffa was valued at 23.5 times his forecast for 2008 earnings per share.
"We still maintain it is not enough. There are still several infrastructure investors that would pay more and we still believe that a price closer to 400 pence is more realistic," Lapwood said.
On January 24, Biffa said it was prepared to recommend a 350 pence proposal from Montagu and GE's Global Infrastructure Partners if they made a firm offer.
Global Infrastructure Partners had replaced HgCapital, which dropped out after an approach at 330p with Montagu failed.
Biffa, which was demerged from water company Severn Trent (SVT.L) in October 2006, said the third party had approached it after the January announcement.
Biffa is "a market leading business with a great workforce in a sector we understand well and where we have a demonstrable track record of success," said Montagu's Jason Gatenby.
Biffa non-executive chairman Bob Davies said the buyers' "investment plans will help Biffa maximise the opportunities presented by changing legislation to deliver growth into the medium term".
Biffa said it was making good progress, and its profit would be weighted towards resource recovery and landfill and power generation rather than collection as in 2006/07.
The company has hired Tricorn for advice alongside Citi and JPMorgan Cazenove.
(Editing by Jason Neely/Quentin Bryar)
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