Hasbro clears way to higher Spear bid: US toy group extends pounds 47m offer and considers appeal against court decision

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HASBRO has left the way clear to increasing its pounds 47m bid for JW Spear, maker of the Scrabble board game.

The US toy group yesterday extended its 900p-a-share offer until 11 July, which gives it time to consider topping the rival pounds 10-a-share bid from Mattel.

'We wanted to keep all our options open. And one of them is an increased bid,' said a spokesman for Hasbro, maker of Sindy and Action Man dolls.

The first closing deadline for Hasbro's offer was on Saturday. No shareholders have accepted.

Hasbro may also appeal against the recent High Court decision that released trustee owners of 24.9 per cent of Spear from an obligation to accept Hasbro's offer. The trustees' original irrevocable undertakings would have given control to Hasbro, which already had a 26.7 per cent stake.

However, if Hasbro increases its offer it still faces a possible referral of its takeover to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Hasbro controls 56.9 per cent of the British boardgame market with products including Trivial Pursuit, Twister and Mousetrap.

Spear has a 16.4 per cent market share.

Mattel, which owns Barbie Dolls and recently bought Fisher- Price toys, yesterday started the 60-day clock ticking on its pounds 52m bid by publishing its offer document for Spear.

The document contains details of a loan notes alternative that offers holders of less than 5 per cent of Spear the chance to defer capital gains tax that might arise from accepting the cash bid.

Spear holders may elect to receive pounds 1 of Mattel loan notes for every pounds 1 of cash that has been offered. The value of each last Friday was estimated at 96p by Robert Fleming, merchant bank adviser to Mattel.

Mattel's first closing date co- incides with Hasbro's extended deadline of 11 July.

Family trustees have irrevocably pledged their 24.9 per cent of Spear's shares to Mattel.