The future of market research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, third largest in the world, has passed into the hands of hedge funds, which now own up to 25percent of TNS shares, ahead of a possible hostile takeover bid by marketing services group WPP.
WPP has been told by the Takeover Panel that it must launch a formal takeover bid for TNS today (Wednesday), or walk away. It recently upped its informal offer to 260p per TNS share, of which about two-thirds would be made up of cash and the balance in WPP shares. But there were conditions attached to the offer which would have to be satisfied by the TNS board, which is unsympathetic to a WPP offer.
A formal bid would appeal directly to shareholders.
Hedge funds are likely to take a shorter-term view of their financial interest than traditional institutional supporters of TNS.
WPP has been engaged in a complex stand-off with German market research company GfK over who will have eventual control of TNS.