Chris Hughes is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering deals. He previously worked for Reuters Breakingviews, as well as the Financial Times and the Independent newspaper.

Calling all pizza delivery businesses in London's West End. Get ready for multiple orders this evening from Kean Street, headquarters of embattled private equity investor SVG Capital.

Lynn Fordham, SVG's CEO, and her advisers face a tense night as they try to secure a friendly takeover deal that could fend off an unwanted approach from Boston-based HarbourVest.

With three days to go till the first closing date of HarbourVest's 650 pence-a-share offer, there's still no firm alternative.

SVG says it's in detailed talks to sell its entire portfolio of investments to a group comprising the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and part of Goldman Sachs. The two buyers might instead bid for the SVG as a whole -- although this isn't the main thrust of the discussions.

Meanwhile, there's another (unidentified) bidder which wants to make an offer for the whole of SVG -- but needs to find a partner to so. Separately, this suitor is in a consortium to buy part of SVG's portfolio. And finally, SVG says there's another potential bidder who might bid for the company.

Got all that?

Clearly SVG, having pledged to update the market today, had hoped one of these bush-dwelling birds might be in its hand by now. Instead, it promises a further update on Tuesday.

Phantom Auction
SVG shares have soared above HarbourVest's 650 pence offer - but no counterbid has landed yet
Source: Bloomberg

The market is confident SVG will secure a better deal than HarbourVest's bid. The shares are at 680 pence, a slight 7 percent discount to SVG's latest net asset value. That reflects the perceived high probability of an offer at just above the current share price.

Of the scenarios listed by SVG, a transaction with Goldman/CPPIB looks the most credible. A sale of SVG's investment portfolio would leave the company with a chunk of cash that investors would demand to be returned. There would be some costs associated with this, including the termination of SVG's current management.

A clean takeover of SVG at between 680 and 700 pence a share would be preferable. That would deliver SVG shareholders a certain price, and the proceeds would land sooner. Fordham would have done a good job by delivering a decent exit for all investors.

Top Five
Coller is SVG's biggest shareholder
Source: Bloomberg

Coller Investment Management, SVG's biggest shareholder and supporter of HarbourVest's bid, would get an even better price than the one it initially found so acceptable.

The successful counter-bidder would get a reasonable deal, but no bargain. As for HarbourVest, it would make about 5 million pounds ($6.4 million) on its own 8.5 percent stake in SVG -- but lose more in fees and wounded pride.

Right now, though, there's only one offer. SVG will need pizza to get through the night. Everyone else may want something stronger.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Chris Hughes in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Edward Evans at