Hambro chief leads £110m Cardpoint bid

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The Independent Online

A consortium of disgruntled shareholders has made an informal approach to Cardpoint about a possible offer of about £110m for the fee-charging cash machine operator.

The consortium - led by Christopher Mills, the chief investment officer of 12.1 per cent shareholder JO Hambro, and comprising Cycladic Capital, RIT Capital Partners, and Schroder Ventures - controls about 30 per cent of the company.

News that it is considering paying 100p a share for the rest spurred Cardpoint shares 17p to 83.75p.

The Blackpool-based company, led by the founder and chief executive Mark Mills, stressed talks are at a very early stage and may not lead to a formal offer.

The consortium is understood to be deeply unhappy with the performance of Cardpoint shares since November, when the firmissued a stinging profits warning.

Blamed on problems integrating Moneybox, the competitor it swallowed for £87m earlier this year, the warning prompted Cardpoint shares to fall by more than 40 per cent in one day.

At the time, Cardpoint accused Moneybox's previous management of drawing up "optimistic" budgets and said 1,000 of the 2,700 UK cash machines it scooped in the deal would need to be scrapped or relocated.

Angry shareholders pointed out Cardpoint had access to Moneybox's books and should have picked up any unrealistic forecasts before buying the firm. They were all the more unhappy given that the group had delivered an upbeat appraisal of prospects to analysts barely two months before the warning.

The shares later recovered some of those losses after catching the eye of a potential predator. No bid was forthcoming and the shares again retreated.

Despite performance falling shy of City expectations, the business is highly cash-generative and is in a sector that is attractive to private equity. In July, another fee-charging cash-machine operator, Scott Tod, agreed to be taken private by the private equity fund Rutland Partners for £7.4m.

Cardpoint is the country's biggest independent ATM operator, with 6,000 machines in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.