Forte restaurant sale could thwart bid

Granada is set to come under intense pressure this week, as its bid target, Forte, pushes ahead with plans to sell off its restaurant business to Whitbread, the food and drink giant, for nearly pounds 1bn.

The sale, which insiders at Forte yesterday confirmed could come within two weeks, has emerged as the key plank in Forte's controversial defence against Granada's unwanted pounds 3.3bn bid.

A deal with Whitbread could complicate the Forte bid situation dramatically. Any sale would have to be put to shareholders, and that might not be possible before the crucial day 39 of the bid period, after which fresh financial details cannot be published. It is also possible that Granada may ask the Takeover Panel to intervene.

Granada had no comment last night. A spokesman suggested that "this might not be the best time to be selling assets, where your arm is twisted behind your back". He said, however, that the company would wait for further details on the proposed sale.

Granada had planned to keep the restaurant business, largely made up of the Happy Eater and Little Chef chains. Forte operates 26 roadside service sites, branded as Welcome Break, and a network of 55 sites in France, under the Cote France brand.

If a deal with Whitbread is reached, Granada will have to hope Forte shareholders withhold their authorisation, and choose instead to accept the television and leisure company's hostile bid. But for that to happen, Granada is likely to have to up its offer, perhaps by as much as pounds 600m.

Forte's radical defence, which would leave it with its hotel operations, had been given a mixed reaction in the City. But analysts concede the demerger plan is clever, as it could remove from the equation the very assets - namely the restaurants - that attracted Granada's attention in the first place.

A sale of the restaurant operations would substantially reduce Forte's debts. The company is also working on disposing of its chain of White Hart hotels, and last week confirmed the sale of its US Travelodge hotels for pounds 114m.

Granada's offer has been justified by its chief executive, Gerry Robinson, on the grounds that the Forte assets had been badly managed, and that Granada could release shareholder value. He and his executives have promised to improve Forte's profits by pounds 100m a year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea