July 8, 2015 / 3:56 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-ETE open to bid for Williams via "fair" options review process

(Adds spokesperson, analyst comments)

By Amrutha Gayathri

July 8 (Reuters) - Pipeline company Energy Transfer Equity LP said it was open to take part in Williams Companies Inc’s strategic review despite having a takeover offer rebuffed, but only if the process was “fair” and not designed to disadvantage Energy Transfer.

Bloomberg reported last week that Williams wanted bidders to sign a so-called “standstill” clause that would block them from buying shares, nominating directors and lobbying investors.

Energy Transfer plans to proceed with its offer made last month and was ready to lobby Williams’ investors to block a planned acquisition of Williams Partners LP, the company said in a statement late on Tuesday.

“If ETE is sitting out, they’re making a calculated bet that a bidder will not emerge that was part of the formal process,” Tudor Pickering analyst Jeff Schmidt said. “That’s playing poker maybe.”

Analysts have said that rival bids may be stymied by antitrust issues and a high offer price.

Williams started the strategic review process last month after rejecting Energy Transfer’s offer, worth $48 billion in stock at the time. The all-stock offer is now worth $44.6 billion as Energy Transfer’s shares have fallen since then.

Energy Transfer said it would take any steps necessary to acquire Williams, even if it did not participate in the strategic review.

Williams’ spokesman Brett Krieg declined to comment on ongoing negotiations, but said the company believes a “robust and competitive process is the best way to maximize shareholder value”.

Shares of both Energy Transfer and Williams were down less than one percent in morning trading on Wednesday. (Writing by Swetha Gopinath in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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