UK-based buyout firm ECI Partners has made a counter offer for London-listed mobile applications company WIN Plc, taking on India's IMImobile. The new offer by ECI Partners and digital communications company Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) will be at least 150 pence per

ordinary share in cash, a 6.4% premium to the offer of 141 pence made by IMImobile's Europe arm. The offer is subject to due diligence and the recommendation of the WIN board, said a statement from the bidders.

The Hyderabad-based mobile VAS firm made an offer for WIN Plc at a valuation of $24 million (£15.93 million or Rs 110 crore). The board of AIM-listed WIN continues to back the offer by IMImobile Europe.

The bid will be made through a newly incorporated company backed by ECI, specifically incorporated for the acquisition WIN and MIG. ECI is proposing to finance any offer for WIN entirely with equity. ECI Partners was founded in 1976 and looks at deals between £10 million to

£150 million. he PE firm raised its ninth buyout fund, ECI 9, at £437 million in December 2008.

Incidentally, ISIS Equity Partners, WIN's largest shareholder with a 19.01% stake, had earlier said that it opposes IMI's offer of 141 pence per share, which “would substantially undervalue the company."

Earlier, IMImobile received irrevocable undertakings or letters of intent from Win’s directors and shareholders in respect of 28.56% of the company’s shares. IMI Mobile already owns 2.37%, and now needs to reach 50%. The selling shareholders include Axa Investment Managers (18.56%), Henderson Global Investors (5.7%) and Hargreave Hale Ltd (1.96%). IMImobile Europe would also look at delisting WIN plc if it owns more than 75% stake in the company post the offer. The deal would be funded by IMI's cash reserves, bank facilities and a loan to be

made to IMImobile Europe by Spark Ventures plc.

Win Plc clocked 9.8% increase in turnover to £41.9 million (about $63.8 million) in 2009 with operating profit of £1.4 million (about $2.1 million). The company that generates almost 80% of revenues from the UK, had net earnings of £1.2 million (about $1.8 million). The zero debt company had cash of £3.1 million (about $4.7 million) at December end 2009.

IMImobile has around 500 employees globally and raised $13-million funding from Sequoia Capital and its existing investor First Mark Capital in November 2009.

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