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Whittaker Says It Is Again Considering Suitors

Times Staff Writer

Whittaker Corp., which rejected a $318-million takeover offer last month, said Wednesday that it is again “considering indications of interest from third parties to acquire the company.”

A company spokesman wouldn’t say whether the company is reviewing a specific offer, or define the “indications of interests.”

The company declined to provide any elaboration on a terse statement issued early in the day, prior to the opening of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Whittaker’s share price, which has moved upward since March on buyout speculation, closed at $50.625, up $3.875.

In its statement, the company also said it is considering “other alternatives consistent with the board of directors’ fiduciary duty to the company’s stockholders. No decision has been reached to sell the company or pursue any of the other alternatives.”

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The statement is a “just a continuation in the realm of vagueness on the part of Whittaker” since it received a $47.50 a share, or $318 million, offer from Caiola Associates in late October, said Larry Selwitz, director of research for the Newport Beach investment banking firm Cruttenden & Co. However, it “is suggestive of the fact that there is some movement,” he added.

Whittaker may be reconsidering the offer from Caiola, a Mountainside, N. J. investment firm, Selwitz said.

Caiola has said it is serious about the acquiring the company, he said, but backed off because Whittaker wouldn’t open its books for inspection. “Maybe Whittaker has relented in opening its books, " he said. However, Whittaker’s statement indicated the presence of more than one interested party, he noted.

The most likely alternative that Whittaker is considering, he said, is a management-led buyout “at a premium price.”

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Analysts have speculated that Whittaker would most likely attempt to go private in a management-led buyout rather than submit to a takeover from outsiders--in part, because current management has longstanding ties to the company.

Whittaker, once a far-flung conglomerate with interest in fashion fabric, mining equipment, commercial printing among other interest, now consists of two divisions--specialty chemicals and technology products for the defense, aerospace and automotive industries.


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