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Banking

Mergers & Acquisitions: How Goldman got caught in the crossfire

When Armstrong World Industries, a $2 billion US company, announced in early June that it was launching a $354 million hostile takeover of Domco, a Canadian floor-products maker controlled by Sommer Allibert of Paris, investment bankers were surprised to learn that the company's long-time investment banker, Goldman Sachs, was not advising Armstrong.

They will be in for a bigger surprise when Goldman's name comes up in an upcoming court battle with Armstrong surrounding the transaction. In one of the more bizarre twists to the changing nature of client relationships, Goldman has gone from being Armstrong's sole investment banker to being a global competitor fighting over the same deal. At stake is a huge share of the US flooring market. Domco has annual sales of $238 million.

The drama in which Goldman plays a key role will begin at a US federal court hearing scheduled for September 30. The hearing is the first step in a legal action Armstrong has undertaken as part of its hostile bid.

Based on what it alleges is a breach of a confidentiality agreement, Armstrong is requesting the courts for a preliminary injunction to stop Sommer's own recently-announced merger with a third party: Tarkett of Germany, a company in which Goldman Sachs Capital Partners has a 32.5%

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