April 27, 2017 / 10:19 AM / 9 months ago

Zodiac faces growing investor uncertainty over Safran offer

PARIS (Reuters) - Uncertainty is growing over a $9 billion (7.02 billion pounds) offer for aircraft seats maker Zodiac Aerospace (ZODC.PA) by French aerospace firm Safran (SAF.PA) as the embattled target company puts finishing touches to delayed first-half earnings now due on Friday.

Shares in Zodiac fell sharply on Thursday after French radio station BFM Business reported that Zodiac could change its mind about accepting a merger offer from Safran (SAF.PA), following previous falls in its share price.

BFM Business said, without identifying its sources, that Zodiac’s family shareholders, who hold about 29 percent of the company’s share capital, were considering a “Plan B” to ensure Zodiac remained independent.

Zodiac, which delayed its first-half earnings by a week to April 28, could not be reached for comment.

Safran declined to comment on the report.

Zodiac shares were down 4.4 percent, the worst-performing stock on France's SBF-120 .SBF120 equity index. Safran shares were up 0.1 percent.

Safran has come under fire from UK hedge fund TCI over the deal, which includes an unusual two-tier structure involving a cash bid followed by a merger designed to woo controlling family shareholders without exposing them to hefty tax charges.

“Confidence in this deal happening is trickling away due to the unexplained delay in publishing first-half results and sustained pressure from TCI on Safran,” said a European analyst, asking not to be named.

    The JDD weekly said Safran could walk away from the deal, without identifying its sources.

    Safran said on April 25 that it was continuing with its exclusive talks to buy Zodiac.

    However, a series of profit warnings from Zodiac - including one in March - have led some Safran shareholders to criticise the deal, with TCI calling for it to be scrapped or at the very least reviewed.

    Reuters first reported on April 14 that Safran was exploring plans to lower or restructure its $9 billion bid for Zodiac Aerospace, and that two sources refused to rule out Safran walking away for the second time in seven years.

    Credit Suisse analysts said on Thursday that a revised Safran offer appeared the “most probable outcome”.

    Reporting by Manon Jacon, Cyril Altmeyer and Tim Hepher; editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Clarke

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