Bernerd to up the ante at Chelsfield

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The Independent Online

Elliott Bernerd, the chairman of Chelsfield, is close to making a formal offer of almost £900m to take the property company private.

The move is expected to be made in the next fortnight, after months of negotiations with Chelsfield's non-executive directors, led by Sir Bruce MacPhail.

It is understood the cash offer will be between 310p and 320p a share. But Mr Bernerd is considering sweetening his bid by including a small stake in the business once it has gone private.

The offer isn't expected to be tabled this week, as Sir Bruce is on holiday in Kenya. Mr Bernerd, who already owns 12.1 per cent of Chelsfield, has secured backing from HBOS bank, which will provide debt finance.

The veteran property tycoon has already won the support of shareholders controlling around 30 per cent of the company.

However, the non-executive directors rejected an offer of 305p earlier this month. The non-executives then, in effect, invited rival bids for Chelsfield, which owns Went- worth golf course.

There was speculation that Gerald Ronson, the property tycoon who controls Heron International, and Donald Gordon, the head of Liberty International, would bid. But well-placed sources revealed that the non-executive directors had now resigned themselves to the fact that a revised bid from Mr Bernerd was the most likely option.

Mr Bernerd, 58, will, however, need to pitch his bid carefully. Chelsfield's shares closed at 306.5p on Friday. Some shareholders want to add a decent premium to the price to reflect the value of Chelsfield's future property developments, such as west London's huge White City scheme.

Chelsfield secured financing for the £1.2bn mixed-use White City redevelopment from the German fund GCI last week. The fund will pay for the initial construction phase in return for a 50 per cent stake in the completed development.

Mr Bernerd founded Chelsfield in 1986 and floated it seven years later for £200m after the property crash.