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Mainfreight, Owens set to fight Toll

By Nick Stride

Friday 1st August 2003

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Mainfreight's takeover bid for fellow transport group Owens has all the hallmarks of a deal done at board level but the shareholders of both companies will still have to be won over.

Mainfreight managing director Don Braid yesterday conceded his company's $1.03 a share offer was prompted at least partly by the prospect of Australian giant Toll owning Tranz Rail.

"It's defensive in some respects, bringing both businesses to bear to prevail in terms of the New Zealand transport industry," Mr Braid said.

"I don't know that it's specifically to address that [Toll's market entry] but it does assist that process."

Mainfreight's announcement said the offer included the 750,000 options held by the Owens chief executive David Ritchie.

Two months ago the company bought a 10.1% Owens stake from Owens family members for 96c a share, giving it a stake big enough to block any Toll takeover.

The two trucking companies are concerned Toll, with a market capitalisation of more than $2 billion, will dominate the industry if its Tranz Rail bid is successful.

The combined market capitalisation of the two companies is less than $160 million.

Owens is particularly vulnerable.

It lost $636,000 last year after reporting a 2002 profit of $3.2 million.

The shares haven't traded above $1 since June last year.

The market surveillance panel said the bid will "likely" require approval from Mainfreight shareholders as its value will exceed 50% of Mainfreight's average market capitalisation.

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