Newbury rejects raised GPG offer

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The Independent Online

The directors of the century-old Newbury Racecourse have rejected an improved £34.6m takeover bid from its biggest shareholder, the investment company Guinness Peat (GPG).

GPG yesterday upped its offer by 50p to take it to £11.50, and said this was its final offer. Some 6.3 per cent of investors had accepted the initial £11 offer by Monday's deadline. The offer has been extended until 5 February.

Newbury directors, including Lady Lloyd-Webber, the third wife of the musical theatre composer Lord Lloyd-Webber and the second-largest investor, are opposed to the takeover, and yesterday urged shareholders to reject it.

GPG, which said it has no plans to sell its 27 per cent stake if the bid fails, has been concerned that the board's £45m plans to redevelop Newbury, which include building a 120-bed hotel and selling land to a housing developer, are not in the best interests of shareholders.

Newbury has been working on plans to develop the track and the surrounding area for more than two years in order to generate more income and make it a more attractive place to visit, but Blake Nixon, the chairman of GPG Acquisitions, believes the plans are "ill-considered".

The course operates race days for just 32 days of the year, so the company must rely on other revenue streams.

The company is listed on Plus Markets and made a pre-tax loss of £1.37m in the six months to the end of June, on turnover of £2.59m.