Founding families try to scupper Yates sale

Members of the Yates and Dickson families threatened yesterday to scupper the £93m buyout of the pubs group, telling GI Partners that they would not sell their 20.4 per cent stake at its current offer price.

Independent Yates directors last month recommended the 140p-a-share buyout offer, which is led by the company's chief executive Mark Jones and backed by GI Partners. But the consortium of family members said yesterday that the 140p offer undervalued the company and that it would not accept it. It has appointed the investment bank, Investec, to advise it on its options.

In response, Thorium, the MBO bid vehicle, said it may not extend its offer beyond today's deadline for acceptances and may withdraw. It is understood that the team has begun talking to Laurel's high street chain as a possible alternative takeover target.

"Neither the consortium nor its advisers give any explanation of how shareholders would realise value of more than 140p per share in the absence of a higher offer," a statement from Thorium said. The consortium, however, is concerned that the company's property estate has not been valued recently, and believes the Thorium offer does not reflect the investment in the estate over the past few years.

"The family consortium is deeply dissatisfied with the level of the offer and a number of other aspects of the proposal," a spokesman for the family consortium said. It is understood, however, that the property estate was valued by independent surveyors as part of the Thorium bid.

Shares in Yates were still trading yesterday at about 130p, substantially below the cash offer. Mark Brumby, an analyst at Oriel Securities, believes shares in Yates will drop to 100p if Thorium walks away.

Yates has been struggling for some time amid a bitter price war between rival high street bar operators.

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