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Shareholder Lawsuit Accuses Huntsman Corp. of Botching Bids

Shareholder Lawsuit Accuses Huntsman Corp. of Botching Bids

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A shareholder filed a lawsuit against Huntsman Corp., claiming it wasn't diligent in finding buyers or getting the maximum possible for the sale of the chemical company.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was the latest twist in a takeover battle that could be resolved Wednesday, a deadline for Dutch company Basell to decide whether to match or top a bid from private equity firm Apollo Management LP.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by shareholder Isaac Augenstein of Brooklyn, N.Y., who asked Delaware's Chancery Court to block Huntsman from accepting Basell's $5.6 billion offer, or $25.25 per share.

There was no indication Huntsman would take that offer. Indeed, Apollo's Hexion Specialty Chemicals Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, has offered $28 a share or $6.5 billion.

By early Wednesday, Basell had not submitted a higher offer, said Huntsman spokesman Russell Stolle, who added that the lawsuit lacked merit.

The deadline for the board to make a decision is midnight Wednesday. Basell is controlled by U.S. industrialist Len Blavatnik's Access Industries Inc.

If Huntsman agrees to be acquired by Apollo, Basell would be owed a $200 million breakup fee. Augenstein's lawsuit says the Huntsman agreement with Basell failed to "identify and extract the maximum value reasonably available to Huntsman stockholders." "Indeed, a process that failed to identify such a substantially higher level of available consideration from a bidder as prominent as Apollo, which also owns a major business in the specialty chemicals industry, cannot have been legally sufficient or in keeping with the individual defendants fiduciary obligations," it said.

The lawsuit was first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. Huntsman is based in Salt Lake City but operates from the Houston area. Anyone buying the company also would assume about $4 billion in debt.

The company generates about $10.6 billion in annual revenue, according to the latest quarterly figures from financial data provider Capital IQ.

The bidding has boosted Huntsman shares, although they were down 6 cents at $27.66 in midday trading Wednesday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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