GREENCORE will find out today if it faces competition in its bid to merge with Northern Foods when the British businessman Ranjit Boparan makes his intentions for the British company clear.
Mr Boparan has until 5pm today either to make a bid for Northern Foods, or walk away from the bidding process. While he may gain an extension on the deadline from London's Takeover Panel, it is thought unlikely.
The market fully expects Mr Boparan to make an offer, with a bid at a small premium of Northern's current share price of 60.5p the consensus view.
Greencore's plan to merge with Northern was welcomed almost unanimously by analysts last November, with the Irish firm's share price shooting up more than 28pc.
The emergence of a potential bid from Mr Boparan, however, has put a dampener on sentiment to the Irish company. The share price topped €1.47 on December 3 but has fallen steadily since, closing at €1.27 yesterday.
"The danger for Greencore is that if Mr Boparan bids, then Northern shareholders will have a clear choice between a cash offer from him or savings that may or not be achieved down the line from Greencore," said one market player.
"In those circumstances it is difficult to see Greencore coming out on top, and then where is it left?"
Where it would be left is on the market. By doing this deal, analysts agree Greencore has effectively put itself in play if chief executive Patrick Coveney can't complete the merger. If Mr Boparan does make an offer it is likely to spark a battle Greencore can't afford to lose.