Capital Corp in talks with three suitors

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The Independent Online
CAPITAL CORPORATION, the owner of Crockfords, the Colony and the Mint casinos, yesterday confirmed that it has received approaches that could lead to a bid after three days of speculation that had driven the company's shares up 45 per cent, against the market trend. They rose again 14.5p to 74.5p yesterday

At least three possible offers are being discussed, with market speculation focusing on Ladbroke, the Barclay Brothers, a management buyout, or a buy-in by the former joint managing director Peter McNally.

The market's favourite bidder is Ladbroke, on the grounds that its planned acquisition of the Coral betting shops from Bass was blocked last week and it now has acquisition cash burning a hole in its pocket. Market rumours claimed that a bid worth 100p a share was imminent, but the company would face problems because it already owns five London casinos. Last night a Ladbroke spokesman refused to comment.

Second favourite are the Barclay brothers, owners of the Ritz Hotel, which opened its new casino run by Aidan Barclay last month. Analysts think a bid from an overseas buyer is also possible, in spite of the strength of sterling.

The casino scene has been hard-hit, especially in London, by higher gambling duties,which came on top of a sharp drop in the business from Asian and Middle Eastern punters, while parallel moves to deregulate the industry have not yet borne fruit.

Capital Corporation's turnover in the six months to the end of June was down 5 per cent and profits down 27 per cent to just pounds 5m. By last week the shares had fallen by more than two-thirds since the Government blocked a hostile bid worth 181p a share from London Clubs International last year. Even after this week's sharp rally the entire company is worth only pounds 76m.

Five investment funds - MAM, Schroders, Morgan Grenfell Investment Management, PDFM and Fidelity - own almost 60 per cent of Capital Corporation between them.

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