Country Gardens rejects Wyevale bid

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The Independent Online

The battle for Britain's potting sheds and bedding plants intesified yesterday when Country Gardens, the UK's second-largest garden centre group, knocked back an increased offer from Wyevale, its larger rival.

The battle for Britain's potting sheds and bedding plants intesified yesterday when Country Gardens, the UK's second-largest garden centre group, knocked back an increased offer from Wyevale, its larger rival.

Analysts suggest that Wyevale - which has 78 centres, mainly in the north of England - will return, increasing its bid once again.

Nicholas Marshall, chief executive of Country Gardens, dismissed the most recent offer as "very far from being a sensible price". But said that he would look at any future higher bids. "[Wyevale] increased the offer nominally. Now they have got to put up or shut up," Mr Marshall said.

Wyevale made an initial offer of 310p a share in April, valuing Country Gardens at £86m. It is understood that the renewed offer, which Country Gardens rejected when announcing stronger than expected first half results, was a few pence higher. Analysts believe that Wyevale could exact significant synergies from a tie-up with Country Gardens, which has most of its garden centres in the south of England.

Country Gardens shares yesterday added 22p to 286.5p.

A spokesperson for Wyevale said that the company would actively continue to seek acquisitions.

Mr Marshall said Country Gardens was also talking to other possible bidders and has been linked to the DIY group Focus Do-It-All. Yesterday FDIA refused to confirm or deny that it was in talks with Country Gardens.

Country Gardens said interim pre-tax profit jumped 26 per cent to £5.9m against analysts' forecasts of about that amount for the whole year.

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