More time for White Hart

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The Independent Online
Regal Inns has given Granada another seven days to agree the sale of the White Hart chain for pounds 122m, sources close to the company said.

Regal had agreed to buy the chain from Forte before it succumbed to a hostile bid from Granada early this year. Under its agreement with Forte, Regal offered to proceed with the purchase even if Granada won the bid - provided Granada was prepared to agree terms within 14 days. At Granada's request, the deadline was extended a further 14 days.

The latest seven-day extension, agreed yesterday, is the last on offer, Regal is believed to have said. As a sweetener to complete the deal, Regal has also offered to drop the pounds 30m in convertible preference shares that were part of the original purchase agreement, replacing them with cash.

Granada is believed to be pouring over the financial figures at White Hart, to determine whether the price is right. There is still a possibility that the leisure and media giant will decide to keep the chain after all, to integrate it with the budget and mid-market hotels it won from Forte.

The upmarket hotels - both in London and internationally - have been put up for sale with a price-tag of around pounds 2bn. Analysts have suggested the disposals may prove more difficult than first thought, in light of the resumed IRA bombing campaign and its effect on hotel occupancy rates.

Negotiations are expected to begin in two to three weeks time and the potential buyers are said to include ITT-Sheraton, Marriott and Bass.