Forte close to selling hotels

MATHEW HORSMAN

and JOHN SHEPHERD

Beleaguered Forte was last night believed to be close to selling its US Travelodge and White Hart hotel chains, as it continued to battle against Granada's hostile pounds 3.3bn bid.

The disposals, which have been planned for several months, were at an advanced stage, and an announcement could come by next week, when Forte is expected to unveil its formal defence document.

Forte erected the for-sale sign over the US Travelodge business two months ago, after receiving several unsolicited offers. There are 490 US Travelodges, most of which are operated on a franchise basis.

The Travelodges are valued by Forte at $150m (pounds 95m). Morgan Stanley, the US investment house, is handling the sale.

Rumours about the disposals helped Forte's shares gain a further 0.5p to 346.5p. Granada's shares dropped 12p to 639p.

Granada's chief executive, Gerry Robinson, yesterday criticised Forte for pushing ahead with the asset sales. "This is not the time to be pushing disposals," he said. "The buyers feel you have your hand up behind your back."

But the Forte camp said the sales were proceeding as planned, and that they were not the result of panic. "We have ruled out nothing, including management buyouts, management buy-ins and a sale to a hotel group," a source close to the company said.

There was speculation that a management buyout group, led by the former US Travelodge executive Paddy Mitchell, could emerge as the favoured buyer of the White Hart chain, at a price of about pounds 100m.

Forte's accounts carry a book value of pounds 130m for the White Hart hotels.

Mr Robinson said Granada would keep the White Hart chain if given the chance. "A lot can be done with these hotels, given the proper attention to detail, cost control and branding," he said.

Meanwhile, Granada confirmed it would meet with as many as five leading institutional shareholders of Forte this week, including the Capital Group, which holds 3 per cent of the shares.

Mr Robinson and his advisers are scheduled to meet Carol Galley, joint vice-chairman at Mercury Asset Management, next week.

MAM, which has 13 per cent of Forte and is the largest single shareholder, was pivotal in the battle for London Weekend Television in early 1994, tendering its shares to the hostile bidder, Granada.

It also emerged last night that the Forte Council, which owns less than 0.1 per cent of the shares but controls 50 per cent of the votes, will meet imminently to discuss the bid situation. Separate meetings with Forte and Granada have been put off, perhaps until next week.

Prospects of a white knight appearing still looked dim, despite frantic efforts by Forte's advisers, Morgan Stanley.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Marketing Executive - B2B - OTE £25,000

£17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity to join this new...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £21000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Recruitment Genius: Business Control Manager

£36000 - £44000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Encouraging more businesses to ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower