Hasbro raises its offer for Spear: Rival American bidder Mattel considering its options in battle to take over UK games maker

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The Independent Online
SINDY yesterday raised the stakes in the Scrabble war when the doll's owner, the US games company Hasbro, increased its offer for the games company JW Spear from pounds 9 to pounds 11 a share.

That tops the offer from Mattel, the US toy company that owns the rival doll Barbie, by 100p a share and values Spear at pounds 57.3m. Mattel said yesterday it had noted the offer and was 'considering its options'.

Hasbro said the increased offer followed its examination of forecasts and other information made available to it by Spear, and discussions about its prospects with management. Norman Walker, a director of Hasbro UK, urged Spear's shareholders to accept the bid. 'Our increased offer for Spear represents significant enhanced value for shareholders and fully takes into consideration Spear's past performance and future prospects.'

The company said the offer was more than 20 times Spear's earnings in 1993, and was 52 per cent above the 740p price for the shares when they were last traded. It added that the price was a 13 per cent premium to the FT-SE Actuaries All-Share index the day before the bid was announced, which 'more than adequately rewards shareholders for past performance and future prospects'.

In a defence document issued last month, Spear said that Hasbro's bid was at a discount to the index, and pointed out that its earnings had increased by 65.7 per cent and its dividends 9.5 times years.

There was no response to the increased offer from the company yesterday, nor was there any comment from the trusts that hold a 24.9 per cent stake. They had agreed to accept Hasbro's original offer, but withdrew their acceptances after Mattel entered the fray.

That sparked a legal battle, with Hasbro insisting that Mattel's offer had missed the deadline after which the trustees' acceptances became irrevocable. Yesterday, it confirmed it had abandoned that battle when it said it would not appeal against a court ruling that released the trustees from their undertaking to accept.

Hasbro is keen to add Spear's Scrabble rights in Britain, Europe and Australia to those in the US and Canada, which it already owns. It is already a significant player in the games market, with brands such as Trivial Pursuit, Twister and Mousetrap.

(Photograph omitted)

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