FRANKFURT-- German supplier Knorr-Bremse has won the first stage of its battle to take over Sweden's Haldex by obtaining 86.1 percent of the brake systems firm's shares before its offer expired on Dec. 5.
Knorr's 125 crown per share offer is still conditional on the German company obtaining regulatory clearance from antitrust regulators.
German rivals ZF Friedrichshafen and Knorr had both wanted to buy Haldex, lured by its expertise in brake systems for trucks and trailers which car suppliers want to develop into autonomous driving systems.
Haldex's board initially recommended ZF's offer, even though it was lower than Knorr's, saying it was concerned that a takeover by Knorr could face antitrust issues.
But ZF failed to clinch a majority of Haldex shares, leaving the field open for Knorr's 5.53 billion crown ($600 million) bid. With 86.1 percent of the shares now tendered, the offer has been extended until Feb. 28, Knorr said today.
"The biggest loser is Haldex," ZF CEO Stefan Sommer said in remarks embargoed for today, blaming hedge funds for the company's defeat.
He said about 40 percent of Haldex shares had been in the hands of funds that were more concerned with the offer price than whether the Swedish firm would fit better with ZF or Knorr.
"Management in Sweden underestimated this," Sommer said, adding that Haldex managers had seemed confident initially that ZF would eventually win.
ZF and Haldex had warned that the concessions needed for Knorr's bid to be approved by antitrust regulators would have severe implications for the Swedish firm.
Knorr sought to reassure investors on Wednesday.
"Based on the open dialog with the authorities we are confident that we will obtain all necessary merger control approvals," Knorr-Bremse CEO Klaus Deller said.