Shareholder group thwarts Alere’s bid for Axis-Shield

A GROUP of shareholders big enough to thwart Alere’s takeover of Dundee-based Axis-Shield has already rejected the US life sciences giant’s £230 million bid, Scotland on Sunday has learned.

Between them, insurance giant Aviva, Edinburgh-based investment manager Artemis and Axis-Shield’s own directors own more than 10 per cent of the company’s stock.

New York-listed Alere had set itself the target of winning 90 per cent of shareholder approval, meaning in effect that its 460p-a-share cash bid is dead in the water at its current price, unless one of the investors was to change its mind.

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Ahead of Wednesday’s interim results from the Scottish medical testing kit maker, Sebastien Jantet – an analyst at Investec Securities – has suggested that a price of up to 570p a share would be closer to fair value, slapping a price tag of about £285m on the firm.

Jantet added: “Whilst Alere now owns around 9 per cent of Axis, the deal is far from done. From a tactical perspective, persuading Alere to pay up will either require another bidder to emerge or shareholders to dig in their heels.”

Mark Niznik, a fund manager at Artemis, added that a rival bidder could still emerge, highlighting Abbott, Roche and Siemens as possible buyers.

Axis-Shield, which was created in 1999 through the merger of Dundee-based Shield Diagnostics and Norway’s Axis Group, has until Thursday to publish its defence against Alere’s formal takeover bid, which was made earlier this month following an informal approach in June.

Alere said its bid offered shareholders certainty on their return, but Axis-Shield’s board argued that the offer “fundamentally undervalues” the company.

Interim sales at Axis-Shield are expected to have risen by 10 per cent to about £56m.