Hamleys keeps door open to Waterstone bid

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The Independent Online

The toy retailer Hamleys reiterated its support for a management buyout yesterday but held the door open to a higher offer from the bookselling entrepreneur Tim Waterstone.

Mr Waterstone said that he "hoped to make a statement very shortly," following weekend reports that he had backing to trump the 405p per share offer from the group's management. Hamleys shares rose 4.5p to 408.5p in the anticipation of a bid battle.

Mr Waterstone has the backing of DC Thomson, the Aberdeen-based publishing group, whose titles include the Beano.

Simon Burke, Hamley's chairman, who is not involved in the buyout, said the onus was on Mr Waterstone to make the next move. "We're sitting here, cap in hand, waiting for the pennies to drop," he said. "We'd very much like Mr Waterstone to either bid or say he's not going to."

Mr Burke added: "Mr Waterstone has to put a price on the table. There's too many 'maybe' bids at the moment and some are leading everybody a merry dance."

Hamleys said it had received no proposals since it recommended the offer led by its chief operating officer, John Watkinson, and Ian Parker, the finance director. The company said it had received no contact from Mr Waterstone, or his bid team since last week but said: "They were clearly part of the bidding process of getting to 205p per share. But we thought it had just fizzled out."

The management offer values Hamleys at £47.4m and is backed by the Icelandic retailer Baugur.

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