Austin Reed shares slide after takeover talks end in failure

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The Independent Online

Austin Reed vowed yesterday to pursue an independent future as it called off takeover talks after its main suitor failed to raise sufficient cash to fund a deal. Shares in the retailer, which owns the Country Casuals womenswear brand, plunged 10 per cent to 126.5p.

Austin Reed vowed yesterday to pursue an independent future as it called off takeover talks after its main suitor failed to raise sufficient cash to fund a deal. Shares in the retailer, which owns the Country Casuals womenswear brand, plunged 10 per cent to 126.5p.

Austin Reed said it had turned down the approach from Slater Menswear because the privately owned Glasgow retailer had "encountered difficulties funding an offer". It is understood that Slater's approach relied on disposing Country Casuals to raise funds, although it did not have a bidder in mind.

Roger Jennings, the chief executive, said Austin Reed had received "several proposals", including one from Nigel Robertson, the grandson of the group's original founder. Richard Thompson, the entrepreneur who recently bought and sold Jaeger, was also among the interested parties.

"None of the approaches, given their low indicative values or their failure to specify a value, were likely to lead to an offer which would be recommended by the board. The board confirms therefore that it is currently not in discussions with any party that may lead to an offer being made for the group," the company said.

Attention will now focus on whether Mr Robertson, who lives in Monaco and at London's Dorchester Hotel, returns with an offer. Austin Reed said it would "review any proposal by Mr Robertson when one is received". It added: "However, to date the board has not received any proposal from him."

The company said it would continue to assess opportunities to maximise shareholder value, "including exploiting its strong asset base". At January 2003, this represented 175p per share, it added.

Mr Jennings said that "despite the distraction", the takeover interest had "been useful".

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