Battle for Club Med tests regulator's patience
* Regulator AMF seen unlikely to use sealed bid process yet
* Seen continuing with accelerated auction procedure
* Club Med tussle is France's longest takeover battle
By Matthieu Protard and Pascale Denis
PARIS, Dec 4 (Reuters) - France's financial regulator is speeding up the auction for Club Mediterranee in an effort to end the uncertainty for shareholders, but is likely to hold back from asking for sealed bids for now due to legal risks of a possible tie, lawyers said.
There have been six offers from two rival bidders for the French holiday company. The first dates back to May 2013, and the latest was on Dec. 1.
Including a long period of legal wrangling that froze the process, the battle between Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang and Italian tycoon Andrea Bonomi is the longest in French stock market history.
Regulator AMF's rules, aimed at making sure the interests of shareholders are served, allow it to intervene after 10 weeks have elapsed. It has two tools at its disposal -- shortening the period one party has to make a counterbid, and calling for "final counterbids" on a given date, with the highest winning.
"This threat has often been brandished but I don't think AMF will want to use the final counterbids procedure given legal risks," said Aline Poncelet, partner at law firm Paul Hastings. Continuación...