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Transatlantic seeks better Buffett offer

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) Transatlantic Holdings Inc, the reinsurer that has received three takeover offers, will ask Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to improve its $3.25 billion unsolicited bid to win the deal.

The offer from Berkshire’s National Indemnity Co “is reasonably likely to lead to a superior proposal,” New York-based Transatlantic said in a statement. The board is willing “to engage in discussions and to exchange information with National Indemnity”.

Transatlantic was given until the close of business yesterday to respond to an August 5 offer from Ajit Jain, Buffett’s reinsurance lieutenant, to buy the company for $52 a share. The bid is the first publicly disclosed unsolicited offer by Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire since Bloomberg began tracking takeover data more than a decade ago.

“If there was one instance or unique instance where he would kind of break the pattern, break his rules, break his habits, it’s in insurance,” said David Rolfe, chief investment officer at Wedgewood Partners Inc., a Berkshire shareholder, in an interview. “I’d be surprised if Buffett and Jain don’t get this done.”

Transatlantic struck a deal in June to sell itself to Zug, Switzerland-based Allied World Assurance Company Holdings AG, which agreed to exchange 0.88 of a share for each Transatlantic share. Under those terms, the transaction would be valued at $2.8 billion based on Allied’s August 5 closing price. Validus Holdings Ltd, based in Bermuda, made an unsolicited cash-and- stock offer last month that would be valued at about $2.9 billion, compared with $3.5 billion originally before equity markets plunged.

Berkshire had $47.9 billion in cash as of June 30, it said last week. Buffett doesn’t buy back shares or pay a dividend and has been looking for acquisitions. He didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment left with his assistant.

“The offer on its face at $52 is superior,” Rolfe said of Buffett’s bid. “But I think the board is being, probably, I’m sure advised by their investment bankers and counsel, ‘Don’t knee-jerk it’.” Validus said on Monday it remains committed to its offer and urged Transatlantic to choose the bid that would best serve its shareholders.

“How many more superior proposals does the Transatlantic board need to receive before it will drop the self-imposed roadblocks and allow Transatlantic stockholders to fully explore potentially superior alternatives to the Allied World offer?” said Gemma Hart, a spokeswoman for Validus.

Shifts in the value of Allied and Validus shares will affect the attractiveness of Berkshire’s original bid, he said.

Validus has slumped 20 percent through yesterday since the last day of trading before it announced its offer.

Warren Buffett: Transatlantic bid

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Published August 10, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 10, 2011 at 10:37 am)

Transatlantic seeks better Buffett offer

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