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Blue-chip construction management firm faces uncertain future as two suitors mount bids for takeover Atkins and Citex battle over Mace

CONSTRUCTION manager Mace is the subject of two takeover bids with US-backed company Citex and W S Atkins tabling offers for the firm.

Insiders said the board of Mace held a secret meeting on Friday to look over the two bids. One said: 'Both firms are looking at a complete takeover of Mace and their proposals are being taken seriously.'

Bob White, chief executive of Mace, was out of the country as Construction News went to press and no one else at the firm was willing to comment. But Mr White is due back in the office tomorrow (Friday) and insiders suggest a decision is due within days.

An Atkins spokesman would say only: 'We don't comment on rumours.'

Citex is backed by US investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, which created the firm in August 1998 by buying Birmingham-based quantity surveyor Bucknall Austin for £15.4 million.

Steve Lee, group managing director of Citex, said: 'We cannot confirm whether we are or are not in discussions with Mace. But our corporate plan is to make acquisitions, so it's not a surprise for us to be linked with companies that are up for sale.'

Mace was founded in 1989 by former Bovis director Ian Macpherson. He stood down as chief executive in March, selling a third of his 51 per cent stake to the firm's employment benefit trust. He now wants to off-load his remaining shares. The Citex and Atkins bids are both believed to be for the whole company.

Mace raised its turnover in 1998 by 15 per cent to £29.1 million. Yet pre-tax profits slumped from £1 million in 1997 to £649,885 last year. The firm blamed this on recruiting and investing in new accommodation.