First Leisure hints at joint ventures

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FIRST LEISURE, the health club and disco operator run by Michael Grade, the former chief executive of Channel 4, yesterday hinted at possible disposals or joint ventures when it said it was "discussing with third parties a number of strategic initiatives", writes Peter Thal Larsen.

In a vague announcement to the Stock Exchange, First Leisure said the discussions were at a "very exploratory stage" and that it was too early to say whether they would result in any agreement.

However, the statement avoided any reference of a takeover, prompting City observers to conclude that First Leisure is not in bid talks. That sentiment was reflected in the shares, which dropped 8p to 224p. Analysts said First Leisure could be discussing the sale of its nightclubs or its health and fitness clubs.