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UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Bidvest says to close Adcock offer next month

David Dolan
Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 | 6:32 AM ET

(Adds Bidvest CEO comment, details)

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 16 (Reuters) - South Africa's Bidvest Group will close its offer for a stake in drugmaker Adcock Ingram early next month, it said on Thursday, in what may be an attempt to speed up a takeover battle that has been waylaid by delays.

Bidvest, a conglomerate that spans shipping to auto sales, is attempting to thwart a takeover of Adcock by Chilean firm CFR Pharmaceuticals.

The Johannesburg-based company has lifted its holding in Adcock to 9 percent, Chief Executive Brian Joffe told Reuters, although he declined to say whether he was trying to put pressure on CFR.

"We have a strategy which we want to implement and I really don't want to be able to tell you what it is in advance," he said.

Bidvest said in December it had around 7 percent of Adcock.

Santiago-based CFR has bid 12.8 billion rand ($1.2 billion) in cash and shares for Adcock, an offer shareholders were initially due to vote on last month. The vote has been twice delayed and is now expected in mid-February.

"Adcock has been subjected to a protracted period of continuous delays throughout which time the attention of the Adcock board and management has been diverted from optimising the operational performance," Bidvest said in a statement.

"This has been exacerbated by the protracted process relating to the offer by CFR Pharmaceuticals."

CFR needs approval from investors with 75 percent of Adcock. The rare Chile-South Africa tie-up is almost certain to fail because South Africa's state pension fund, which owns over 22 percent of the drugmaker, is also opposed to CFR.

The state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has said it doesn't want shares in CFR and wants to benefit directly from a turnaround at Adcock.

The PIC is also the top shareholder in Bidvest, leading to some speculation Joffe is working with the fund to thwart CFR, something he has denied.

CFR wants to add fast-growing Africa to its businesses in Latin America and Asia.

Bidvest's Joffe, who has a long track record of turning around underperforming companies, sees in Adcock an opportunity to roll out the drugmaker's products in sub-Saharan Africa, where Bidvest has little presence.

Bidvest said its cash offer of 70 rand a share for 34.5 percent of Adcock will close at 1500 GMT on Feb. 4.

CFR is offering 74.50 rand worth of cash and shares, based on a value of 2.334 rand per new CFR share.

Shares of Adcock were little changed at 70.5 rand at 1100 GMT, while shares in Bidvest were also steady.

($1 = 10.8837 South African rand)

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Mark Potter)