Equiniti draws £600m takeover interest from US buyout firm Siris

·3-min read

A FTSE-250 company which handles share registrar and other back-office services for some of Britain's biggest businesses has become the latest UK corporate name to attract takeover interest from a buyout fund.

Sky News has learnt that Siris, a technology-focused private equity investor, has tabled a 170p-a-share bid for Equiniti.

City sources said the proposal was the latest in a string of offers that had been made by Siris for Equiniti in recent months - none of which had yet been publicly disclosed to the stock market.

It was unclear whether Equiniti's board, chaired by the City veteran Philip Yea, had decided to engage with its suitor.

One shareholder pointed out that the latest proposal had been pitched at a level about 40% higher than the current share price - a premium that would ordinarily be sufficient to secure access to a company's books.

Siris's bid is understood to have been made in cash, valuing Equiniti at about £600m.

The private equity firm's interest is understood to pre-date the coronavirus pandemic, the onset of which triggered a sharp fall in its target's share price.

Equiniti is said to have been left vulnerable to an approach by the unexpected departure last month of Guy Wakeley, the chief executive who took the company public in 2015.

He is due to be replaced by Paul Lynam, who resigned as chief executive of Secure Trust Bank in order to take the role.

Equiniti provides an array of services to corporate clients, such as investor relations management, pensions administration and helping companies to manage initial public offerings.

It traces its roots back to the creation of the British Army's paymaster-general in the 19th Century, and has had more recent owners such as Lloyds Banking Group and Advent International, the private equity firm.

The company now works with more than 70% of the FTSE-100, and employs more than 5000 people globally.

Last month, Sky News revealed that Equiniti was in talks to sell a small subsidiary to Interactive Investor, the consumer share-trading platform.

That deal has yet to be completed.

Equiniti is the latest listed British business to attract takeover interest from a private equity bidder, with UK equities still regarded as cheap by many analysts.

In the past week, TDR Capital, the private equity firm that is in the process of acquiring Asda, has made separate bid approaches for Aggreko, the temporary power supplier, and Arrow Global, the debt collection group.

Other blue-chip companies to have received bids since the start of the COVID-19 crisis include the retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone and William Hill, the gambling group.

Shares in Equiniti closed down nearly 3% on Monday at 115.6p, valuing the company at just under £440m.

Goldman Sachs is understood to be advising Siris, while Rothschild is advising Equiniti.

An Equiniti spokeswoman at Tulchan Group declined to comment, while Siris, through US media relations firm Abernathy McGregor, declined to comment.