Breare to resume bid talks with W&D

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The Independent Online

Robert Breare, the leisure entrepreneur, is to resume takeover talks with Wolverhampton & Dudley, after the UK's biggest regional brewer yesterday put itself up for sale, signalling the likely end of 110 years of family management.

Robert Breare, the leisure entrepreneur, is to resume takeover talks with Wolverhampton & Dudley, after the UK's biggest regional brewer yesterday put itself up for sale, signalling the likely end of 110 years of family management.

David Thompson, W&D's managing director and the fifth generation of the Thompson clan to preside over the pubs and brewing group, confirmed yesterday that pressure from institutional investors had forced the board to "initiate a strategic review of the options available to maximise shareholder value". In a statement, the company said: "This process may or may not lead to an offer for all or part of the company."

Mr Breare, backed by the private equity firm, Botts & Company, said: "We are very much looking forward to participating in the [strategic review] process."

W&D, whose assets include the Banks's brewery and Pitcher & Piano pubs, rejected a 500p-a-share indicative offer in August from Botts and Mr Breare. Mr Breare yesterday said any renewed approach would be pitched at 500p "and could be more, depending on due diligence". It is expected that talks between W&D and Mr Breare will resume shortly.

One analyst said: "The management seems to have realised the game is up."

Industry experts said a successful bid from Mr Breare would be likely to lead to a break-up of W&D. One said there was no obvious trade buyer to launch a rival offer for the whole group, but a foreign player, such as South African Breweries or Heineken, could be interested in one or more of W&D's four breweries.

Meanwhile W&D's retail estate, which comprises about 1,700 pubs, could be broken up and sold to a handful of independent players. A spokesman for SAB declined to comment yesterday, while a Heineken official said: "As far as I know, we are not interested."W&D shares ended up 6p at 467.5p. The Thompson family owns less than 1 per cent of the company.

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