Football pitch firm Goals Soccer Centres in £73m takeover

 

Five-a-side football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres was today poised for a £73.1 million takeover by one of the world's biggest pension funds.

Announcing a deal with the directors of Goals, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which owns lottery operator Camelot, said it planned to invest £40 million in adding 25 sites to the 44-strong Goals estate over the next five years.

Its move comes after Patron Capital Partners, which owns a controlling stake in Goals rival Powerleague, said this month it was also mulling a bid.

East Kilbride-based Goals, which employs 800 people, agreed a deal with Ontario in the absence of any firm intention from Patron to make an offer.

Powerleague owner Patron said it was "considering its options" and urged Goals shareholders to "take no action".

Goals shares leapt another 9%, having soared in recent weeks on hopes of a takeover battle.

Ontario Teachers, which is already home to a number of leading Canadian sports assets such as the Toronto FC Major League Soccer team, described its 144p-a-share bid for Goals as a "win-win for investors".

It wants to expand Goals across the UK and also overseas, building on the one site currently owned in the US.

Jo Taylor, vice president of Ontario Teachers, said: "We believe that this will be a win-win for investors, employees and the thousands of players who enjoy using Goals' facilities each week.

"Our aim is to cement Goals' position as the UK's premier five-a-side operator and help the business to achieve its full potential."

Ontario Teachers invests the pension assets and administers the pensions of 295,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario.

It has invested more than £4 billion in the UK, with other British assets including a 49% stake in Bristol Airport, while it is also the largest shareholder in Birmingham Airport.

Goals has been run by Keith Rogers since 2000 and he holds an 8% stake in the company.

But Mr Rogers and his management tend intend to remain with the business and reinvest £6 million after the sale - around 65% of their holding.

Goals has put in a resilient performance amid the wider economic woes in the UK, with underlying profits increasing by 11% to £13.8 million in 2011.

A typical Goals centre has between nine and 14 floodlit courts with pitches made from artificial grass, which is designed to look and feel like real turf, parking for about 100 cars and a licensed bar. Around three-quarters of its revenues came from football bookings during 2011.

It added more than 10 new centres to its estate in the last two years - most recently at Sunderland, Liverpool, Norwich and Hull.

Potential rival bidder Powerleague has 45 floodlit five-a-side football centres, with 470 pitches used by more than 130,000 players each week.

It has said it believes there are potential more than 100 centres in the UK.

PA

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