Non-Standard Finance plows ahead with hostile bid for Provident

(Reuters) – Britain’s Non-Standard Finance Plc said on Wednesday it would push ahead with its 1.3 billion pound ($1.7 billion) hostile takeover of bigger rival Provident Financial even though it had failed to win the backing of some of Provident’s biggest investors.

NSF, which first made a move on Provident in February, said its offer was now unconditional.

It said investors holding only 53.53% of Provident’s issued share capital had accepted the offer. That was well short of a 90% target set by NSF when it originally made its offer, but NSF said it had now lowered the required acceptance level to 50% plus one Provident share.

Wednesday was the closing date for Provident shareholders to accept the offer, which Provident’s board has rejected.

“NSF Board is now approaching the Provident Board again to establish a pragmatic and constructive dialogue, so that, as and when the remaining conditions are satisfied, the interests of all stakeholders will be safeguarded,” NSF said in a statement.

British asset manager Schroders Plc, Provident’s third-biggest shareholder with a 14.6 percent stake, has said it would not accept Non-Standard Finance’s offer for the subprime lender.

NSF’s hostile bid for Provident has turned into a bitter war of words between the two subprime lenders with NSF accusing Provident executives of mismanaging the company.

The bid is led by NSF’s chief executive John van Kuffeler, who is a former boss of Provident.

Provident, established in 1880 and based in the northern English city of Bradford, has repeatedly rebuffed the offer.

Provident’s share price has fallen 75 percent in the last two years as the company deals with a botched reorganization of its home credit business that led to profit warnings, the departure of its chief executive and suspension of dividend.

The two firms provide short-term loans to consumers who might otherwise struggle to borrow from more mainstream banks, a sector under pressure as lawmakers want to rein in punitive interest rates charged on borrowing by often vulnerable people.

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra and Susan Fenton