Jubilant Lookers sees off hostile Pendragon bid

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The Independent Online

Lookers, the Manchester-based car dealer, was celebrating victory last night after seeing off a hostile £245m bid from the rival dealership chain Pendragon by a decisive margin.

Only 21 per cent of Lookers shareholders voted to accept the all-share offer from Pendragon when the bid closed yesterday lunchtime - well short of the 50.1 per cent acceptances needed to declare the takeover unconditional.

The outcome of the bid battle was in effect decided on Tuesday when the millionaire car dealer Tony Bramall emerged as a white knight, snapping up a 24.4 per cent stake in Lookers and pledging to vote against the offer. Ken Surgenor, the chief executive of Lookers, said the champagne corks would be popping in Manchester. "We are delighted with the result. Now we can get on with the job of moving the business forward." He added that Pendragon's unwelcome bid had "certainly cost" Lookers but declined to put a figure on how much the company had spent maintaining its independence.

The outcome represents a rare defeat for Trevor Finn, the indefatigable and normally ebullient chief executive of Pendragon. He was unavailable for comment. However, Pendragon's chairman Sir Nigel Rudd issued a statement saying: "We are naturally disappointed at this outcome as we remain of the view that the offer was compelling and represented a full and fair price for Lookers shares."

Lookers shares closed nearly 3 per cent up at 695p, valuing the company at £248m. Pendragon's offer of 1.15 shares for every Lookers share was worth 685p.

Sources in the Pendragon camp sought to play down the failure of the bid, saying Lookers would have been "a nice bolt-on, but not a must-have". Mr Finn snapped up Reg Vardy this year for £500m to consolidate Pendragon's position as the UK's biggest car retailer. Even so, itcommands only 5 per cent of what is a highly fragmented market. Sir Nigel said Pendragon had "many other opportunities to build on its existing position as the No 1 motor retail group in the UK".

Mr Surgenor hinted at further consolidation within the industry: "There are lots of opportunities ... to grow the group," he said.

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