Halliburton Quits Expro Fight

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. oil services firm Halliburton said it has ended talks to buy UK rival Expro (EXR.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) after its target refused to open an auction and opted for a 1.8 billion pound ($3.5 billion) rival bid.

Expro International Group's independent directors have recommended a cash offer from private equity firm Candover (CDI.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) worth 1,615 pence per share, and hearings are due to take place on Monday and Wednesday to sanction the offer.

Halliburton said it raised its cash offer to 1,625p per Expro share, conditional on Expro delaying those hearings and convening a meeting for shareholders to consider both offers.

Halliburton, the world's second-biggest oil services company, said its offer was not conditional on a recommendation from Expro and it had completed due diligence and financing was in place.

Expro did not consider the higher offer sufficient effectively to open up an auction, Halliburton said in a statement released late on Friday.

It said it ended talks but reserved the right to make an offer in certain circumstances, including if the rival offer is not sanctioned or there is a delay.

But a group of institutional investors will on Monday try to block the takeover by the Candover consortium and are angry at Expro for not opening an auction, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The report cited one of Expro's biggest investors as saying Halliburton's higher offer should have been considered and said its lawyers were trying to delay the takeover proceedings.

Expro could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.

The Candover-led offer represents a premium of 74 percent to Expro's share price on February 28, the day before it said it had received a proposal about a possible offer. The shares closed on Friday at 1,677p, implying the market believed that a still higher bid could come in.

Oil and gas industry services providers such as Expro have benefited as record energy prices prompt companies to boost spending on exploration and development of reserves.

(Reporting by Steve Slater; Editing by Paul Bolding)