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Suncor extends, but doesn't sweeten, hostile takeover bid for Canadian Oil Sands

CALGARY – Oilsands giant Suncor Energy has extended its hostile takeover bid for its smaller peer Canadian Oil Sands until Jan. 8, but it hasn’t sweetened the offer.

The all-stock bid — worth nearly $4.5-billion based on Thursday’s closing share price — was to have expired Friday.

Suncor CEO Steve Williams said in a statement late Thursday the offer launched Oct. 5 remains “full and fair” in light of the worsening outlook for oil prices.

“The pressure is clearly on COS’ board and management to prove they are acting in someone’s interest other than their own,” said Williams.

The Alberta Securities Commission earlier this week allowed COS to keep its new shareholder rights plan, also known as a poison pill, in place until Jan. 4.

Suncor had sought to have the poison pill overturned, while COS wanted to keep it until early February.

The defensive tactic is intended to give COS more time to weigh its options.

A COS adviser has said 25 parties have expressed some degree of interest, but the company has also argued that it’s in strong enough shape to keep going it alone.

“The Alberta Securities Commission decision allows COS more time to surface a superior offer from a credible third party, something most analysts see as unlikely. They are now focused on a self-serving claim that COS, despite a balance sheet with a near junk credit profile, is better off as an independent company in a lower for longer crude oil price environment,” Williams said.

“Suncor’s offer delivers a significant and immediate premium, continued exposure to rising oil prices, and superior long-term upside versus the significant risk facing COS and its shareholders. We urge COS shareholders to act to protect the value of their investment by tendering their shares to the Suncor offer.”

COS chairman Donald Lowry urged investors to do nothing.

“Extending the expiry of Suncor’s bid does not change the fact that it is substantially undervalued and opportunistic,” he said in a news release.

“Nothing else has changed so, as it stands, there is more value for shareholders in a strong, independent COS than there is in this offer. Our board will continue to pursue full and fair value for all shareholders now that the decision by the Alberta Securities Commission has levelled the playing field between Suncor and other interested parties.”

At the centre of the Suncor-COS battle is the massive Syncrude oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Both companies are partners in Syncrude — COS with a 37 per cent stake and Suncor with 12 per cent. That means if Suncor is successful, it would own just under half of the mine and consolidate its position as Canada’s biggest dominant oilsands player.

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