French on last-ditch charm offensive to seal Aveva deal

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French go on a last-ditch charm offensive to seal Aveva deal ahead of knife-edge shareholder vote

Aveva and its French suitor are on a last-ditch charm offensive to win support for the proposed takeover.

Both companies have agreed a deal that would see Paris-based Schneider Electric buy the 41 per cent of the British software giant it does not already own for 3225p a share.

But the transaction – which values Aveva at £10billion – must be backed by shareholders at what looks set to be a knife-edge vote tomorrow amid growing opposition.

Shareholder vote: Aveva has agreed a takeover deal with Paris-based Schneider Electric which values the British software company at £10bn

Shareholder vote: Aveva has agreed a takeover deal with Paris-based Schneider Electric which values the British software company at £10bn

A source close to the situation said: ‘Aveva and Schneider have been out seeing their shareholders. The meetings started last week and will finish on Thursday.’

The source added that the two companies have been flanked by their bankers – Lazard is working for Aveva, while Citi represents Schneider. 

So far, leading money managers Jupiter, M&G Investments, Davidson Kempner and Canadian firm Mawer have come out and publicly stated they will vote against the deal.

Another top 20 investor has joined them but does not want to be named.

Fears in the Aveva and the Schneider camps are that there will be many more in private that will also say no on Friday.

Aveva executives gave the Schneider offer the thumbs up in September and urged investors to back it.

Aveva’s top brass stand to make £5.5million if the deal is given the green light, with chief strategy officer James Kidd set to walk away with £4.5million.

One shareholder who will vote against the deal told the Mail: ‘The executives and the bankers have been out, stating the up side of the deal. 

‘This is quite normal in an M&A deal but there’s a last-minute push taking place for sure. It has not changed our minds. Maybe they are worried there might be a surprise ahead.’

The takeover of Cambridge-based Aveva hangs in the balance as it requires the approval of at least 75 per cent of minority shareholders at the vote tomorrow.

Given the French group cannot vote, it would only take some 10 per cent of the overall shareholder base to reject it for the deal to be blocked.

Aveva is one of the London Stock Exchange’s few remaining technology firms. Spun out of Cambridge University in the 1960s, it provides software to help engineers design major industrial projects as well as products that help run factories. 

If the deal were to be given the go-ahead it would be a hammer blow for London as the UK looks to turn itself into the Silicon Valley of Europe.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said: ‘It would be a shame to lose a British tech company from the London Stock Exchange. There are not many of them.’

Schneider first made an offer for the rest of the company in September, tabling 3100p a share for the 41 per cent of Aveva it does not already own.

But after New York-based Davidson Kempner accused the French business of ‘opportunism’ and ‘poor communication’, the offer was raised to 3225p a share on November 11.

Schneider said the offer was final.

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