Granada raids Forte shares

MATHEW HORSMAN

Granada yesterday bet almost pounds 400m that it would win the acrimonious battle for Forte, the hotels group. Around mid-morning it waded into the stock market snapping up 9.2 per cent of its prey.

The manoeuvre was seen by analysts as further indication that the television and leisure company was poised to clinch the battle.

One analyst said: "With the shares now held by institutions friendly to Granada, this looks like the bid is pretty much decided." Mercury Asset Management, which holds 15 per cent of Forte, is believed to be preparing to tender its shares to Granada. Other institutional shareholders were last night also leaning towards accepting the hostile offer.

Forte dismissed the share purchase, calling it a "desperate attempt to restore momentum to its misguided bid." Sir Rocco Forte, the chief executive, said: "Granada has yet again shown its true colours by favouring certain shareholders over others."

But Granada denied that it had given preference to certain buyers, claiming that its was "an open offer, and no one was given privileged position".

Analysts said only a radical move by Forte would now allow the company to escape with its independence intact. Among the possible last-minute defence strategies, the company was believed to be discussing the sale of one or more "trophy" hotels and to be holding out for a higher offer from Whitbread for its restaurants and budget hotels businesses, which the brewer has contracted to buy for pounds 1.05bn if the Granada bid fails.

Analysts said a higher bid would be hard to achieve, as Whitbread would have to convince its shareholders that a premium offer made sense.

Yesterday's dawn raid had been expected to accompany the unveiling of Granada's increased offer last week, but failed to materialise. Under Takeover Panel rules, Granada is allowed to buy up to 9.9 per cent of Forte shares, at prices up to but not exceeding the value of its cash- and-shares offer of 386p.

It can make additional purchases of up to a total of 29.9 per cent of Forte's shares at prices no higher than its all-cash offer of 362p.

A Granada adviser confirmed that the company had stopped short of buying the total amount available to it. "We wanted to leave ourselves some flexibility for the future."

According to sources, some of Forte's traditional institutional supporters were among those shareholders selling out yesterday, as volumes soared to more than 160 million. Market-makers and arbitrageurs were also among the sellers yesterday, according to dealers.

Separately, the Department of Trade and Industry confirmed yesterday that Granada would have to sell Forte's motorway services areas, branded as Welcome Break, if its bid succeeded, and said it would accept an undertaking to that effect in lieu of a referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Granada's chief executive, Gerry Robinson, said: "We said at the outset that we recognised the potential competition issues involved and we therefore volunteered to dispose of all of Forte's motorway service areas."

Following Monday's announcement that Sir Rocco would split the roles of chairman and chief executive, Forte yesterday appointed John Hoerner, chief executive of Burton Group, as non-executive director. Sir Anthony Tennant's appointment as non-executive chairman was announced on Monday.

Following yesterday's hectic trading, Granada closed up 23p at 693p, just below its share price prior to launching the bid in November. Forte closed 14.5p higher, at 380.5p.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
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

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star