CSC sticks with Trafford deal despite bid interest

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The Independent Online

Capital Shopping Centres pushed ahead with its £1.6bn plan to acquire the Trafford Centre near Manchester last night, shrugging off calls from Simon Property to halt the deal to give the US-based company a chance to prepare an offer for Capital itself.

Capital said Simon, which has a 5.6 per cent stake in the shopping centres group, had asked it to put the Trafford deal on ice until "it had had the opportunity" to forward a "potential cash offer... at an unspecified premium" to net asset value.

The news helped to propel shares in Capital more than 13 per cent to 393p yesterday. Its net asset value at the end of June was 368p.

However, Capital added, as Simon had not made an offer, put forward an indicative proposal or given any certainty that an offer would actually be made, it was moving forward with plans to buy Trafford from John Whittaker's Peel Group.

The company, known as Liberty International until the demerger of its London-focused Capital & Counties business earlier this year, yesterday raised £221m for the Trafford deal by placing 63.3 million new shares with investors at 355p a piece.

Capital shareholders will have the chance to vote on the acquisition at an extraordinary general meeting next month. The Gordon family, which owns more than 14 per cent of the business, backs the purchase.

The Trafford Centre deal will see Peel become the biggest share-holder in Capital, with a stake of about 20 per cent. Peel could raise this to nearly 25 per cent via the convertible bonds issued as part of the deal.

Analysts said that the inclusion of the Trafford Centre in its portfolio would raise Capital's valuation to 425p-450p, meaning that Simon would have to pay more to mount a successful takeover bid.

"The Trafford deal will increase CSC's market capitalisation and hence the cheque Simon would have to write to acquire the business from £2.5bn to £3.1bn," Michael Burt, an analyst at Execution Noble, said.