Aviation firm John Menzies rejects takeover bid by Kuwaiti rival

Shares rise after company rebuffs ‘opportunistic’ proposal that ‘undervalues Menzies and its future prospects’

Last modified on Wed 9 Feb 2022 08.56 EST

John Menzies, a Scottish firm that provides ground, air cargo and fuelling services at airports, has rejected a £469m takeover approach from a Kuwait rival, sending its shares soaring.

The Edinburgh-based firm said its board had unanimously rebuffed a “preliminary and unsolicited proposal” from National Aviation Services, a subsidiary of the Kuwait-based Agility Public Warehousing, at a price of 510p a share in cash. It came after Menzies knocked back an earlier offer at 460p a share.

Shares in Menzies jumped as much as 41% to 475p, a two-year high, and later traded 36% higher at 455.50p, below the offer price.

It is the latest overseas bid attempt after a surge in takeovers of UK companies by foreign firms in recent months, including the £7bn sale of Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-biggest supermarket group, to a US private equity firm.

Menzies was founded in 1833 as a bookseller, but has focused on its aviation business since selling its newspaper distribution arm to the private equity firm Endless in 2018, after pressure from investors. It is one of the world’s biggest aviation services providers, with services including plane fuelling and de-icing, ground and cargo handling, and maintenance at more than 200 airports in 37 countries.

Agility builds warehouse parks and offers last-mile delivery, as well as customs services, property management and aviation services across the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia. The company generates annual revenues of $5.4bn (£4bn). It was established as a state-owned company in 1979 and privatised in 1997, when Tarek Sultan, a Kuwait businessman and member of the country’s powerful Sultan family, was named chairman and managing director.

After consulting its financial advisers, Goldman Sachs, Menzies concluded that “the proposal is entirely opportunistic, conditional and that the terms fundamentally undervalue Menzies and its future prospects”.

It said the offer came “at a time when the full impact of management actions is not yet reflected in Menzies valuation and underlying volumes have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels”.

The company suffered heavy losses in 2020 when the Covid-19 outbreak led to a collapse in global aviation. It has since reshaped its business and implemented a £25m cost-cutting drive.

Global air travel has been recovering since last summer and Menzies had a strong finish to 2021, despite the impact of changing travel restrictions prompted by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Philipp Joeinig, the chairman and chief executive, said: “This strong performance and momentum in 2021 has continued in 2022, with further contract wins and renewals alongside the continued recovery of global flight volumes.”

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