The UK takeover panel on Tuesday set a January 30 deadline for warring Tatas and Brazilian steel maker CSN to end the competitive bidding to acquire Corus Group, failing which the issue would be decided by auction.
"The panel executive has ruled that the last date for Tata and CSN to announce revised offer for Corus shall be January 30, 2007," the Panel said in a regulatory announcement after talking to rival bidders and taking into account the entire rival bidding process that started in November.
Citing relevant rules, the Panel said in an announcement on London Stock Exchange if a competitive situation continues to exist till shortly before January 30, an auction procedure would be implemented.
The authorities swung into action after a near two-month long saga for Corus, for which Tatas made a revised bid of $9.1 billion that was countered by CSN with a $9.7 billion offer on December 11.
While CSN had made its information document on the counter offer public last Friday by submitting it to Corus shareholders, Tatas, according to banking sources, had availed of the 46 days period for technical evaluation of rival's bid and taking a decision.
Sources said that Tatas were yet to take a decision on the issue and are mulling all the options. While Tata officials declined to comment on the evolving situation, a CSN official termed as 'hypothetical' the possibility of another revised bid by rival.
Corus, on its part, exuded confidence that the situation would be resolved soon with the intervention of the panel. It had earlier decided to adjourn the shareholders meet planned for Wednesday to a later date.
The takeover panel said that any revised offers that comes under "shortly before January 30" would have to go through the auction process, the terms of which will be determined by the panel executive.
The date of the auction process, if it needs to be implemented, would be decided by the Panel, which said as of now, "Tata and CSN are entitled to announce revised offers for Corus."
In the event of an auction, each bidder would be given a day to make an offer, followed by an opportunity to the other the next day till one drops out.
The auction route has been take recourse to only in 3-4 occasions in the past and the winner decided in less than a week of the process.
Recounting the bidding war, the Panel said on November 10, Tata posted an offer (of 455 pence a share) to Corus shareholders for acquisition through a scheme of arrangement and later revised its offer upward (500 pence) on December 10.
A day later, CSN had announced a counter bid of 515 pence per share of Corus and proposed that it should be implemented through a scheme of arrangement.
When contacted, CSN told PTI that it had posted on Friday, the information document to Corus shareholders. Sources said that Tatas, thereafter, had asked Corus and the competent authorities to give it 46 days for technical evaluation and to take a decision.