Australia's Takeovers Panel Considers Novus Bid Claim

Australia's Takeovers Panel may meet as early as Wednesday to consider a claim by Novus Petroleum Ltd. that an A$326 million hostile takeover bid by Indonesia's Medco Energi Internasional doesn't provide enough disclosure to shareholders.

Novus has asked the Federal Government-backed panel to declare that unacceptable circumstances surround the bid and order Medco to temporarily halt the mail out of a bidder's statement to Novus shareholders.

Procedural restrictions prevent Novus from commenting on the substance of its allegations, but the energy company has questioned whether two bidder's statements released by Medco on Dec. 24 and Jan. 2 provided "sufficient disclosure of all matters material."

If the three-person panel finds in favor of the Novus claim, it can order Medco to fix the deficiency through the issue of supplementary bidder's statement, possibly delaying the bid.

The panel is unlikely to question the bid itself unless any shortfalls in disclosure are very serious.

"Assuming there is a problem they are much more likely to ask for it to be fixed," a spokesman for the panel said.

On Wednesday, Novus directors reiterated that shareholders should take no action in relation to the bid, which is pitched at A$1.74 a share.

At 0150 GMT shares in Novus were down two cents at A$1.83. The stock remains above the bid price as investors bet that Medco may raise its bid or that another bidder will emerge.

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