Evans of Leeds may go private at pounds 164m

THE FAMILY behind the property group Evans of Leeds is seeking to take the company private after 28 years on the stock market in a deal which could value the group at pounds 164m.

The company said the Evans family, led by the company's chairman Michael Evans, has made an approach that would value the group around 125p per share.

This is a 24 per cent premium to the closing price on Thursday but it is a long way short of the 176p peak a year ago.

The shares closed 17p higher at 119.5p yesterday.

The Evans family already controls 53 per cent of the shares so the offer will be examined by a committee of four non-executive directors which include Keith Hellawell, the Government's so-called "Drugs Tsar".

It is understood that the family has become disenchanted with the stock market and the low valuations it attaches to smaller, property groups.

The group has also been hit by the new FRS13 accounting measures which have forced the revaluation of a pounds 100m debenture taken out by Evans at an interest rate of 11 per cent four years ago.

Evans is the latest in a series of companies to turn its back on the stock market, which increasingly favours large, international stocks in high growth sectors like telecoms and pharmaceuticals.

However, minority shareholders, which include the Prudential with a 10 per cent stake, may take a dim view of the offer which was described by one analyst as "not exactly generous".

The Evans family started the company after the First World War as a small scale local developer.

Its most high-profile investment has been the White Rose shopping centre in Leeds which was developed jointly with Land Securities, one of Britain's biggest property companies.

Last year Evans of Leeds reported pre-tax profits of pounds 13.9m on turnover of pounds 30m.