Blacks set to demand deadline for Ashley bid

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The Independent Online

Blacks Leisure is poised to ask the Takeover Panel to issue Mike Ashley's Sports Direct with a "put-up-or-shut-up" deadline after the sports equipment retailer said it was considering a takeover of the outdoor specialist earlier this week.

Market sources said the request was the "next logical step" for the operator of the Millets and Blacks stores. Blacks avoided collapse by completing a company voluntary arrangement at the end of 2009 and is keen to push ahead with its recovery strategy, notably a £20.3m cash call. The Takeover Panel, Sports Direct and Blacks all declined to comment yesterday.

Sports Direct blocked the £20.3m fundraising slated for last Wednesday after seizing back its 28.5 per cent shareholding in Blacks from the administrator to Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. Blacks planned to use the proceeds to open new stores, refurbish existing shops and cancel a bank facility.

On Tuesday, Blacks said it intended to pursue an alternative fundraising for the £20.3m, "in the absence of any concrete takeover proposals from Sports Direct". Mr Ashley, the founder and deputy executive chairman of Sports Direct, made an indicative offer to acquire the outdoor retailer in early 2009 but a bid never materialised.

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