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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German car parts maker Knorr-Bremse [STELLG.UL] sealed its victory in the battle for Sweden's Haldex (HLDX.ST) by snaring 86.1 percent of the brake systems firm's shares before its offer expired on Dec. 5.
German rivals ZF Friedrichshafen and Knorr had both wanted to buy Haldex, lured by its expertise in brake systems for trucks and trailers which car suppliers want to develop into autonomous driving systems.
Haldex's board initially recommended ZF's offer, even though it was lower than Knorr's, saying it was concerned that a takeover by Knorr could face antitrust issues.
But ZF failed to clinch a majority of Haldex shares, leaving the field open for Knorr's 5.53 billion crown ($600 million) bid. With 86.1 percent of the shares now tendered, the offer has been extended until Feb. 28, Knorr said on Wednesday.
"The biggest loser is Haldex," ZF Chief Executive Stefan Sommer said in remarks embargoed for Wednesday, blaming hedge funds for the company's defeat.
He said about 40 percent of Haldex shares had been in the hands of funds that were more concerned with the offer price than whether the Swedish firm would fit better with ZF or Knorr.
"Management in Sweden underestimated this," Sommer said, adding that Haldex managers had seemed confident initially that ZF would eventually win.
ZF and Haldex had warned that the concessions needed for Knorr's bid to be approved by antitrust regulators would have severe implications for the Swedish firm.
Knorr sought to reassure investors on Wednesday.
"Based on the open dialog with the authorities we are confident that we will obtain all necessary merger control approvals," Knorr-Bremse Chief Executive Klaus Deller said.
Knorr's 125 crown per share offer is still conditional upon the German company obtaining regulatory clearance on acceptable terms.
Reporting by Edward Taylor and Ilona Wissenbach; editing by David Clarke