Midland car dealer Pendragon last night looked to have lost its #259 million bid to take over rival Lookers.
Nottingham-based Pen-dragon had received acceptances for only 21 per cent of its target's shares before the deadline for the offer lapsed at midday yesterday.
"We are naturally disappointed at this outcome as we remain of the view that the offer was compelling and represented a full and fair price for Lookers' shares," Pen-dragon chairman Nigel Rudd said in a statement.
Lookers last month rejected Pendragon's offer, which it said valued shares in Lookers at 725p each.
The offer came after Pendragon had proposed taking control of both Lookers and Britain's second-largest car dealer, Reg Vardy, in a three-way deal.
Lookers, based in Manchester, rejected the hostile bid from Pendragon, on the grounds that it was too low and did not reflect the group's strong 2005 results and the current trading climate.
Mr Rudd said despite the rebuff from Lookers' shareholders, Pendragon had plenty of other opportunities to consolidate its position as the country's leading car retailer.
Lookers' chances of surviving were boosted when industry heavyweight Tony Bramall bought out General Electric's stake in the company for #55.7 million on Tuesday, saying he opposed Pendragon's bid. Ironically, Mr Bramall pocketed a #76 million fortune when he sold his CD Bramall business to Pendragon in 2004.