Esporta looks beyond DSC

Leisure group Whitbread is the latest company to be linked with a move to acquire the UK fitness and leisure chain.

Esporta, the UK leisure and fitness chain currently the subject of an 80p a share hostile takeover bid from UK private equity firm Duke Street Capital, has reportedly attracted the attention of UK leisure group Whitbread as well.

The Times reports that Whitbread is considering making a bid for the fitness group which would value Esporta ahead of the £133m currently on the table from Duke Street. The report suggests that the leisure group would look to combine Esporta with the David Lloyd Leisure clubs. A spokesman for Whitbread said the firm did not comment on market speculation.

However an offer from Whitbread is unlikely to materialise as the David Lloyd clubs are predominantly out-of-town facilities. According to a source close to the deal, Whitbread is only likely to show any interest in Esporta’s Riverside developments. “They are the jewel in the Esporta crown, showing good performance and income.”

Last week Duke Street announced that the firm now controlled just under 26 per cent of Esporta’s shares, a 1.2 per cent increase since the offer was launched last month. Esporta chief executive John Grieves described the level of acceptances as ‘insignificant’, adding that it proved that shareholders could ‘see through Duke Street’s arguments’.

Duke Street has until the middle of July to decide whether to make an improved offer to the 80p offer rejected by the Esporta board last month.