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Bidding for Wolves nears its close

Leisure entrepreneur Robert Breare still seems in the lead in the long race for the UK brewer .

UK-brewer Wolverhampton & Dudley’s share price rose 16p to 460p yesterday, upon news that the company had received more than one takeover offer.

One of the bids is believed to have come from Robert Breare’s Noble House Pub company which would have offered in the range of 500p per share valuing the company at up to £465m.

Breare has the backing of private equity firm Botts & Co. If successful, he is expected to add some 700 managed pubs to Noble House Leisure, his restaurant company which last November bought Oriental Restaurant Group. He is also likely to keep hold of some of the brewing assets owned by W&D such as the Pedigree brand. Wolves has breweries in Burton on Trent, Wolverhampton, Mansfield and Hartlepool.

The company’s management is also believed to be pursuing its bid to buy the company out with the backing of Royal Bank Development Capital. UBS Capital is no longer backing the team.

And pubmaster, which is owned by a consortium including WestLB is also thought to be putting together a bid.

A deadline of April 5 has been set for formal offers to be submitted for the brewer. Last week Tom Schrager, a director of New York investment fund Tweedy Brown and one of Wolves' main shareholders with a six per cent stake, told the Financial Times that he was going to write to the board, urging them to give Breare the time he needed to put a bid together.

Wolves had been forced to put itself up for sale having seen its shares go from a high of 618.5p in 1999 to a low of 322p last summer. Recent results looked encouraging though. Last December the company announced full year profits of £65m, up from £50.2m. Shares in the company stand at 453.5p this morning.

In August last year, the Wolves’ board rejected Breare’s initial 500p per share offer. In September, the entrepreneur was expected to launch a 550p per share hostile bid but the brewer put together a defence strategy, announcing plans to restructure and create three separate lines of business. However the following month the company announced amid pressure from shareholders that it was willing to talk to its stalker after all.

Wolves is being advised by NM Rothschild.