Freeport in play as bidders circle

GI Partners, a private equity firm focused on asset-backed investments, is thought to be among those making an approach for the European factory outlet centre developer.

Private equity firm GI Partners is understood to be among the parties that have tabled indicative proposals compelling the target Freeport, a European factory outlet center developer, to confirm it has received takeover approaches.

According to a report in UK newspaper The Times, a number of pure property investors including Kenmore are also interested.

In its statement to the stock exchange after the report appeared, the company said: “Discussions are at a very early stage and there can be no certainty that they will lead to an offer being made for the company.”

Its shares rose 9 percent, valuing the company at £167 million ($317 million; €247 million).

News of the takeover talks come just days after Freeport admitted in a trading update to shareholders that it had cut the valuation of its outlet centres by 12.5 percent.

The company is also being sued by its founder Sean Collidge, who left the company in March after 29.75 percent shareholder Laxey Partners demanded a boardroom shake up.

Collidge resigned on 31 March and is counter-suing Freeport after the company accused him of financial impropriety against it.

Freeport cut the valuation of its outlet centre at Alcochete in Portugal from £152.6million to £134.1million after valuers made higher assumptions about vacancy rates at the scheme than last year.

It opened in time for the Euro 2004 football championships, but has struggled to win over shoppers.

Freeport has also written down its Excalibur centre in the CzechRepublic from £39.5million to £29.9million.

In its statement today Freeport added that its nominations committee is still searching for a chief executive but hopes to make an appointment “shortly”.

GI Partners declined to comment. The firm is run by Rick Magnuson, a former deputy partner of Nomura’s Principal Finance Group in London and current chairman of Digital Realty Trust.