Brierley attacks Gibbs acquisition

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The Independent Online
GIBBS MEW was yesterday accused of riding roughshod over its own shareholders by Brierley Investments, which is trying to take over the small Wiltshire-based brewer and pub operator for 200p per share.

The accusation was made after Gibbs simultaneously released its defence document against the pounds 11m bid and announced an agreed pounds 2.3m purchase of UK D, a wholesale drinks distributor.

Gibbs, which is family-controlled, said shareholders representing nearly 52 per cent of the company had sanctioned the deal.

Brierley, the investment company based in New Zealand, said: 'The Gibbs family have attempted to present a fait accompli and have not waited for independent shareholders' views.

'The acquisition of UK D takes Gibbs back into London-based drinks distribution. Shareholders may recall that Gibbs' previous venture into this business, the Robert Porter acquisition, incurred over pounds 2m in losses in the 1980s, despite fulsome promises made at the time,'it said.

Brierley's holding of nearly 20 per cent of Gibbs' shares will be diluted by the purchase of UK D from John Hedderson and his brother, Tom, who founded Canonbury Wine Company in 1976 before selling it to Devenish.

The brothers have agreed to accept 600,000 Gibbs shares as part payment for their business. The shares will equate to 10 per cent of the enlarged group, reducing Brierley's holding by nearly two percentage points.

John Hedderson will also fill Gibbs' managing director's chair, which has been temporarily occupied by Peter Gibbs, the chairman.

Gibbs said it was buying UK D because it would not only 'enhance its existing distribution business, giving it greater market share, but access the UK D customer base for Gibbs' own brand products.'

UK D is the holding company of UK Distributors, which operates from London's King's Cross, and UK Drinks, based in Luton. It is expected to make at least pounds 450,000 before tax in the six months to the end of this month.