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Manitou acquiring Gehl in friendly deal

Thursday, 11 September 2008 ( #377 ) - West Bend, WI, United States
Manitou Group subsidiary Tenedor Corp has launched a friendly tender offer to acquire the remainder of outstanding shares of Gehl Co. Another unit, Manitou BF SA, is Gehl's largest shareholder, owning 14.4% of West Bend-based Gehl common stock. Material handling equipment manufacturer Manitou Group of Ancenis, France aims to strengthen its North American operations "by joining forces with a player known for its superior products and distribution networks," says Marcel-Claude Braud in a statement. Braud is Manitou president and chief executive officer and, with members of his family, controls ownership of the group. The tender offer follows a July 2004 strategic alliance under which Gehl agreed to manufacture and distribute select models of Manitou's compact telescopic handlers in the US. Under this week's definitive agreement, Manitou will pay USD30 per share, representing a 120% premium over Gehl's closing price on 5 September. The offer expires on 20 October unless it is extended. "The combination of Gehl Co and Manitou offers a substantial value to our shareholders today while affording our dealers and employees with future opportunities for continued success," says William D Gehl, the firm's chairman and CEO. As of 1 February, he owned 3.7% of the shares of Gehl Co. Manitou says it expects to retain the current Gehl management team. The deal values Gehl at approximately USD450 million. Gehl Co was founded in 1859, is publicly traded on the Nasdaq exchange and reported profit of USD24.4 million on 2007 sales of USD457.6 million. As of 31 December, the firm had 848 employees. Gehl markets its compact equipment under the Gehl, Mustang and Edge brands, primarily for earthmoving and materials handling applications. Gehl manufactures telescopic handlers and asphalt pavers at a 215,900 square foot (19,431sqm) plant in Yankton, South Dakota, and skid loaders at a 260,000 square foot (23,400sqm) facility in Madison, South Dakota. Gehl expanded the Yankton plant in 2005 and again in 2006. In addition, Gehl has invested in painting systems, laser cutting equipment and robotic welding technology to improve its manufacturing capabilities. The West Bend site has corporate offices, engineering, research and development and distribution services and occupies 481,000 square feet (43,290sqm), including space where Gehl formerly manufactured agricultural implements. Gehl discontinued its agricultural implements business in 2006. Manitou is a leader in rough-terrain equipment including all-wheel steer loaders and telescopic handlers and operates globally through 23 manufacturing and distribution subsidiaries. In addition to the Manitou stake, other external Gehl owners as of 31 December included three Tontine investment affiliates of Jeffrey L Gendell of Greenwich, Connecticut, 9.9%, and Dimensional Fund Advisors LP of Santa Monica, California, 8.6%. Gehl would owe a fee of USD14 million if it terminates the Manitou offer to accept a superior deal.
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