November 28, 2017 / 12:07 PM / 2 years ago

Emerson Electric pulls Rockwell Automation bid off table

(Reuters) - Industrial-automation systems maker Emerson Electric Co (EMR.N) said on Tuesday it abandoned its bid for Rockwell Automation Inc (ROK.N) after several rejections, and instead will pursue bolt-on acquisitions as originally planned.

FILE PHOTO: Emerson Electric Company Canadian headquarters is shown in Markham, Ontario, Canada, February 7, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Cassese/File Photo

“Clearly, the Rockwell opportunity is dead, and we’re moving on,” Emerson’s Chief Executive David Farr said on a call with analysts, after expressing disappointment in a statement that Rockwell’s board had refused to discuss a potential merger.

Emerson’s shares rose 3.1 percent to $63.82, while Rockwell’s were up 1.7 percent at $194.22 in midday trading.

The move to focus on smaller, bolt-on deals is not new for Emerson. In fact, Farr, who has been at the helm for 17 years, had previously indicated that he would consider only small, bolt-on acquisitions.

Farr said on Tuesday that Emerson would be interested in some assets of General Electric Co (GE.N), if GE looks to sell, and some assets that are now part of GE’s Baker Hughes (BHGE.N).

He said on the call that Emerson would keep trying to strengthen its position in hybrid and discrete automation, but declined to give names of companies it was interested in buying.

Farr said the company would seek bolt-on acquisitions valued at $500 million to $1.5 billion over the next couple of years.

The $29 billion offer for Rockwell, which would have created an industrial automation giant, was Emerson’s bid to diversify its businesses and reduce exposure to volatile energy prices.

Emerson first made an offer of $200 per share for Rockwell in August. It then raised its offer twice - to $215 per share and $225 per share, but was rejected.

Rockwell argued that the offers undervalued it and that the combined company’s industrial customers would be worse off because its products would no longer be available on a single platform.

“The Rockwell Automation Board and management team are committed to the execution of our strategy, which we are confident will continue delivering extraordinary shareowner returns,” Rockwell said in a statement on Tuesday.

With the Rockwell deal falling through, Emerson said it plans to speed up the rate of share repurchases over the next month and buy back up to $1 billion over the next 12 months.

Emerson continues to expect more than $2.8 billion in operating cash flow for fiscal 2018.

Rockwell’s shares have risen 2.2 percent since news of the deal first became public on Oct. 31. Emerson’s shares have fallen 8.1 percent in the same time.

Emerson’s strength is in process automation, helping power plants and factories in sectors such as mining and cement operate more efficiently. Rockwell, on the other hand, is a leader in so-called discrete automation, helping assemble component parts to make cars, household appliances and computer systems.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas and Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Sayantani Ghosh

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