The pursuit of SA’s most storied construction company, Murray & Roberts (M&R), by German engineering company Aton is SA’s first hostile takeover bid in years, and has triggered alarm bells. Henry Laas, a mining engineer who has been with M&R for 17 years and is now the CEO, has labelled the bid a "surprise", even though Aton had been steadily building up a stake for years. At the time of the offer, it held 40%. "What is surprising is the offer price, which we think is totally low, far too low," Laas told CNBC recently. "And secondly, the mechanism used, which we felt was aggressive, to go to the shareholders directly without approaching the board and asking for its support."Three years ago, the family-owned Aton bought 4.5% of M&R. It played a smart game, incrementally hiking its stake to 29.9% by last year, then to 33.1%. On March 26 2018, Aton said it firmly intended to offer R15/share to buy out M&R, valuing the company at R6.7bn. It later made the offer. On the face of it, it se...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now