Appleyard shares slump as bid talks collapse

Clifford German

Shares in Appleyard, the embattled Yorkshire-based car dealer, slumped 10.5p to 63.5p yesterday after the company announced that talks about a possible bid, first announced in June, had ended without an acceptable offer being made.

A number of parties have shown an interest in the group after a first approach from an unnamed company, believed to be Sanderson Bramall, was made public.

But Lazards, the group's advisers, took the view that none of the bidders was willing to offer a high enough price.

Appleyard is unlikely to face a hostile bid because most car manufacturers have clauses which can void existing franchises if a company changes hands. But the company, which 10 years ago was one of the strongest quoted companies in the sector, remains beset with problems.

It is still nowhere near finding a chief executive to succeed Mike Williamson, chairman and chief executive, when he gives up his executive role at the end of the year.

The business is also suffering from the widespread restructuring imposed by the leading car manufacturers which are reducing the number of franchises they deal with, amalgamating territories and demanding heavy capital investment to improve showrooms and customer service.

The main losers have been the small privately owned firms which cannot provide the necessary capital investment, but Appleyard has lost two prestigious Jaguar franchises in Leeds and Harrogate and several other outlets have been closed or sold.

The statement coincided with the release of figures for six months to the end of June showing a 3 per cent drop in turnover to pounds 380m and a 16 per cent drop in profit before tax to just pounds 3.88m, even including an exceptional profit of pounds 725,000 on the disposal of dealerships.

The interim dividend has been cut from 3.1p to 2p. The figures were marginally better than some analysts had expected, after last year's full year loss of pounds 5.35m, which included a charge of pounds 8.6m to cover the cost of restructuring and slimming down the business.

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