Greene King wins Morland with new pounds 182m bid

GREENE KING, the Bury St Edmunds-based brewer, yesterday claimed victory in its bid battle for Morland after it raised its offer to pounds 182m, beating a bid by Wolverhampton & Dudley, which said it would not increase its offer.

The company, which has Graham Greene's nephew on its board, said the takeover would result in the loss of 100 jobs at Morland's headquarters in Abingdon, near Oxford.

The agreed 540p-a-share offer is 4.2 per cent higher than Wolverhampton's pounds 174m hostile bid last week. Greene King initially mooted an offer last month at 430p a share and later raised it to 445p a share.

Shareholders and analysts questioned whether the bid was overvalued. Tim Bridge, chief executive of Greene King, said: "It would have been a brilliant deal at 445p but it's still a brilliant one now." But David Thomson, chief executive of Wolverhampton, made it clear he would not be prepared to pay more for the 408-Morland pub Estate: "We're not going to increase it. We had the opportunity to do due diligence on the books and we think 518p is a fair offer."

Morland, which brews Old Speckled Hen and Ruddles beers, has struggled in an increasingly competitive beer and pubs market since narrowly fending off a 1992 bid from Greene King. With the Morland estate Greene King will own 1,668 pubs, which include the 110-strong Hungry Horse chain of community pubs.

Mr Bridge said he wished a proportion of the enlarged estate to follow the Hungry Horse example: "In socioeconomic terms we are looking at C2 and D. It's low cost and good value, putting food back into pubs which tended to be only drink."

Shares in Morland rose 19.5p to close at 535p while Greene King dropped 1p to end at 685.5p.