Littlewoods proposes pounds 250m buy-back

NIGEL COPE

The battle for control of Littlewoods, the football pools and retail empire, took a new turn yesterday when the company proposed a pounds 250m share buy-back. The proposal is designed to offer an exit route for members of the controlling Moores family and maintain the company's independence.

Littlewoods also warned that it expected this year's profits to be "some way below" last year's level of pounds 116m. It blamed the National Lottery for damaging its pools business, but also said trading conditions were difficult for its chain stores and that its home shopping division was suffering from weaker sales and higher bad debts.

The share buy-back proposal is seen as an attempt by the Littlewoods board to scupper the indicative pounds 1.2bn offer for the company by Barry Dale, the former chief executive.

The board's efforts were immediately criticised by the Dale camp, which said the proposals lacked substance and would push the company deep into debt. Mr Dale's consortium, which is being advised by Dawnay Day merchant bank, was working through last night on a response which should be issued today.

The Littlewoods proposals were contained in a circular sent by Leonard van Geest, chairman, to the 32 members of the Moores family who own all the shares in the Liverpool-based group. Dated 22 November, it states that the board is prepared to spend pounds 200m-pounds 250m on buying back shares from family members who may wish to sell.

It declined to name a price, saying this would only be decided after consultation with the family. However, it is likely to be significantly below the indicative 848p-a-share offer from Mr Dale.

It adds that more than pounds 250m could be spent but this may have a detrimental effect on the business, which is currently debt-free. "It would be more likely that the group would need to make disposals to help pay for any share purchases," it says.

Jim Michie, Littlewoods finance director, said: "If there are a few [shareholders] who want out, then why don't we set up another buy-back device.

"What we are saying is that, after 70 years in business, why rush? You have plenty of time to come to a rational conclusion."

Advising shareholders to reject the Dale offer, the Littlewoods board also urged Moores family members to wait for the outcome of two reviews of the business due for completion later this month. It added that it had received several other offers for parts of the business.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory