Motoring clubs reject talk of bid approaches

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The Independent Online
Britain's two leading motoring organisations, the AA and the RAC, yesterday denied that they had received takeover approaches from City financiers seeking to capitalise on the recent flurry of bids for companies owned by their members.

Interflora, the flower delivery agency, also rejected reports that it had received an approach and was consulting its 2,700 members about its future.

A spokesman for the AA, which has 9 million members and provides everything from breakdown assistance to insurance and financial services, said it was aware that Andrew Regan's break-up approach to the Co-operative movement had prompted speculation about its ownership.

But he added: "We have had no approaches and remain committed to our present structure and strategy, believing it to be ideally suited to meeting the varied and changing needs of our members."

A spokesman for the RAC was also dismissive of the suggestion that it was being stalked, saying: "We have had no approach whatsoever."

The AA is an unincorporated members' club but it has a conventional corporate structure with a chief executive, John Maxwell, who joined from the Prudential last December, and a chairman, Sir Brian Shaw.

In 1995 it made a deficit before tax of pounds 27m on a turnover of pounds 523m but is expected to report a surplus for 1996. The loss in 1995 was largely due to an extensive restructuring of its retail arm with the closure of about 100 of its 250 shops.

The RAC is classed as a non-profit distributing organisation run by chief executive Neil Johnson, the former director-general of the Engineering Employers Federation. Its ownership structure is more complicated as it is split into three divisions - the RAC Club, motor services and motor sports, the governing body of British motor sports.

The 6 million motorists who receive RAC roadside assistance are classed as associate members. The RAC Club, which owns the club premises in Pall Mall and Woodcote Park golf club in Epsom, Surrey, is owned by its 13,500 members.

However, it also has a remit to work "to protect the interests of motorists" which involves non-profit making work in areas such as road safety and vehicle emissions. The spokesman added: "If we were run by vested interests for profit then it is unlikely the new owners would support those kind of activities."

The takeover bid for Interflora, which generates sales of about pounds 10m a year, is reported to involve an up-front payment of pounds 2,000 to each of its 2,700 member florists. But David Perry, Interflora's chairman, said there was no predator stalking the business and there was no offer on the table.