U.S. pension funds say oppose Lafarge’s buyout

(PARIS) – Two U.S. pension funds indirectly invested in Lafarge North America (LAF.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Tuesday they would oppose a proposed $3 billion minorities buyout by French parent company Lafarge (LAFP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), deeming the offer too low.The New Jersey Building Laborers Statewide Benefit Funds and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund also said they would ask a special committee of the board of Lafarge North America to make inquiries about a “possible takeover” of Lafarge by Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) (LAMBt.BR: Quote, Profile, Research).GBL, the investment vehicle of Belgian financier Albert Frere, recently raised its Lafarge stake to 5.4 percent.”We are going to be advising various mutual funds for the rest of the week,” said Richard Metcalf, director of corporate affairs at the Laborers’ International Union of North America, in Washington, D.C., “discussing with them the fact that we think the offer is low and engaging discussions with people about how they evaluate this potential takeover threat.”Lafarge North America shares have rallied 29 percent to $82.77 since Lafarge announced its buyout plans.Metcalf told Reuters that the two pension funds were invested in some of Lafarge North America’s biggest stake holders such as Fidelity, Wellington Management, Barclays Global Investors, Vanguard Group, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the biggest U.S. state pension fund.He said the two pension funds had indirect ownership of around 250,000 Lafarge North America shares.Fidelity, Wellington Management, Barclays Global investors, Vanguard Group, Goldman Sachs AM and CalPERS jointly own around 12 million North America shares, or 16.7 percent of its capital, according to Reuters data from Dec. 31, 2005.A Lafarge spokeswoman declined to comment, only reiterating that Lafarge’s offer price was “fair.”A special committee of the board of Lafarge North America said on Monday it had deferred making a recommendation on Lafarge’s tender offer for the company, leading Lafarge to extend its offer period by two weeks until April 3.

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