THE TAKEOVERS Panel has declined to intervene in a debate between natural gas distribution company Envestra and its suitor, Cheung Kong (CK) Group, over Envestra’s final dividend to shareholders.

CK Group made a takeover bid for Envestra in May, valuing its shares at $1.32 each.

As part of the deal, the companies agreed that Envestra shareholders were entitled to receive a dividend for the 2013-2014 financial year of up to 3.5 cents for every share held.

That dividend was originally to be declared on or before 21 August, but Envestra brought forward the dividend declaration date to mid-July.

The accelerated declaration and payment of the dividend has been opposed by CK Group, saying the rushed payment aimed to, in the words of the Takeovers Panel, “protect minority shareholders remaining in Envestra as at August 2014 (that is, those who had not accepted the offer.)”

Envestra applied to the Panel for a declaration of unacceptable circumstances, saying CK’s objection was designed to deter declaration of the dividend and deprive Envestra shareholders of the benefit of the final dividend.

But the Panel noted Envestra had not yet declared its final dividend, and that CK Group had not yet advised whether it would extend the offer period so the record date for the dividend would be done before the offer closed, or whether it would decline to do so.

“In the circumstances, the Panel considers that no unacceptable circumstances have arisen yet,” the Panel said.