Bottom Line: Brandreth has the last laugh

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The Independent Online
THOSE who have suffered the appalling jokes of the MP and broadcaster may not agree - but thank goodness for Gyles Brandreth.

With four fellow directors, he was prepared to stand up to chairman Francis Spear and ignore his acceptance of a 900p-a-share offer from US toy giant Hasbro.

By doing so, he precipitated a bidding war that resulted in the 1,150p-a-share offer from Mattel late on Monday night - 28 per cent extra for Spear's shareholders.

Sensibly, given the legal complications caused by getting out of the last acceptance, the trustees speaking for half Spear's shares decided to ensure they had the best possible deal before throwing their lot in with Mattel in irrevocable acceptances.

But Hasbro clearly thinks 21.1 times' 1993 earnings - a premium of more than 18 per cent to the market - was too rich a price, even for the benefits of adding the rest of the world to its North American Scrabble rights. The pounds 11.1m profit on its 26.7 per cent stake, acquired in 1991 and yesterday pledged to Mattel, is a handsome consolation prize.

As it is a cash bid, Mattel's plans for the company are academic to all but Scrabble addicts. It will be hard-pushed to better the 65.7 per cent compound earnings growth, and almost 10-fold dividend increase, achieved by its management team over the past five years, but Spear's European distribution network will prove invaluable for its ambitions to develop a European games business.

The one who comes off worst in this is Mr Spear. His over-hasty endorsement of the original Hasbro offer made his welcome of the Mattel bid sound hollow.