Cantillon: The trip to Tipp was too far for Kentz suitors

It seems it's a long way from Tipperary to the boardrooms of the suitors of Kentz, the Clonmel-based engineering group.

For weeks, the UK-listed Kentz has been circled by several of its bigger rivals. Amec and H+W both had bids rebuffed of about £700 million (€835 million), while SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian company, was also believed to be mulling a bid.

The official line for Kentz was always that it “wasn’t for sale”. Companies usually aren’t, until they are bought.

But there was always a sense from those around the company that, like everything, it had its price.


Some of its large shareholders – under condition of anonymity – told a British newspaper recently they would sell at a valuation of £760 million. From the level of the existing bids, it didn’t seem that much of a stretch.

Then this week, Amec and H+W both walked away, while SNC never even joined the party.

It will be interesting to hear what it was that changed their minds, given the apparent willingness of some shareholders to do a deal.

Kentz, if it chooses, can celebrate maintaining its independence. But it’s not every day that an Irish company finds itself at the centre of a near €1 billion bidding war.

There is, however, a fine line between playing hard to get and staying single.