Scania says it has `reasonable grounds’ to expect takeover bid from MAN

man.jpgShares of Scania AB rose more than nine per cent before its shares were halted from trading Tuesday amid reports that MAN AG was considering a takeover bid that could combine two of Europe’s largest truckmakers.
In a statement released after markets closed, Scania said it had “received information to the effect that it has reasonable grounds to assume that Germany’s MAN AG will make a bid for the company.”

The company did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Scania said it had notified the Stockholm exchange about the notice, which caused its shares to rocket and, ultimately, forced a halt in trading.

Company spokesman Hans-Ake Danielsson said earlier that Scania had noted talk of a bid from MAN, Europe’s third-biggest truck maker. “Those are rumours going around, but it is not something we are commenting on,” Danielsson said.

Munich, Germany-based MAN declined to comment.

Scania shares rose 9.3 per cent to 389.50 kronor (US$53.29) Tuesday before being halted by the Stockholm exchange. MAN shares gained 2.5 per cent to close at 60.65 euros ($76.97) in Frankfurt trading.

Analysts said a merger between MAN and Scania, Europe’s fourth-biggest truck maker, could challenge Volvo as the No. 2 behind market leader DaimlerChrysler AG. Volvo said last week that it would examine acquisition opportunities and consider returning more cash to shareholders, a move widely seen as a response to venture capitalist Christer Gardell’s recent purchase of a stake in the company and his plans to seek a restructuring.

Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri cited unidentified sources in reporting on its website that MAN would launch a bid for Scania. It said German automaker Volkswagen AG, the biggest stockholder in Scania with an 18.7 per cent stake and 34 per cent of the voting rights, would remain a major owner in the combined company. Dagens Industri said Sweden’s Investor AB, the second-biggest stockholder in Scania, had agreed to a possible deal.

In February, MAN CEO Hakan Samuelsson said he was amenable to looking at buying any stakes available in competing truck makers, including those held by VW.

Volkswagen and Investor, the investment vehicle of Sweden’s Wallenberg family, declined to comment.

Last week, however, at an analyst conference in London, Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder said the company had what he called a “legitimate interest” in the Swedish truck maker.

Shares of VW rose nearly 2.8 per cent to close at 63.05 euros ($80.02) in Frankfurt.

Analysts were mixed on whether a MAN-Scania tie-up would move forward.

“It’s always positive news that someone wants to buy you. It means you’re doing something right,” Henrik Breum of Danske Bank told Dow Jones Newswires. He added the companies had good knowledge of each other but seemed to be a weak geographical fit because “in Europe, they tend to be strong in the same areas.”

Scania, based in Sodertalje, south of Stockholm, employs more than 28,000 workers and has sales in more than 100 countries. [AutoNews24h]