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Freescale sells itself for $17.6bn cash – or more

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Freescale Semi has accepted a $17.6bn offer from private-equity investors to buy the company. But there is a peculiar twist: the chip maker has reserved the right to seek a higher offer from other suitors over the next 50 days.

Also, "Freescale may, at any time, subject to the terms of the merger agreement, respond to unsolicited proposals. If the company accepts a superior proposal, a break-up fee would be payable by the company. There can be no assurance of any alternative proposal."

This caveat shows that Freescale wants to play away, while wannabe new owners, a consortium of private-equity funds led by Blackstone, are either desperate to deposit their cash in the company, or have secured a big divorce settlement in the pre-nups.

According to recent reports, Freescale is playing footsie under the table with a second consortium of private investors, comprising Silver Lake Partners, Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, and Apax Partners.

Will these put up more cash on the table? We will know soon enough. In the meantime, Freescale's board is recommending the bid on the table today. Worth $40 a share, this represents a 36 per cent premium on the average closing price of the shares last week (i.e. before news of negotiations leaked out). The company, formerly owned by Motorola, IPOed in July 2004 at $13 a share.

Press release here. ®

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