Noble House mulls bid after W&D statement

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The Independent Online

Noble House Leisure, the private pubs and restaurants company which has been stalking Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries for more than a month, yesterday said it was "assessing its next move" after the UK's biggest regional brewer issued an upbeat, but limited, trading statement.

Noble House Leisure, the private pubs and restaurants company which has been stalking Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries for more than a month, yesterday said it was "assessing its next move" after the UK's biggest regional brewer issued an upbeat, but limited, trading statement.

W&D, which became vulnerable to a takeover in May after it suffered a slump in half-year profit margins, said the situation had since stabilised after the management took "robust" action to control pricing and costs. But it gave no details on the status of its ongoing strategic review, which is expected to result in the closure of one or more of the group's four breweries.

The company said it would split itself into three divisions - beer brands, managed pubs and tenanted pubs - to help improve future performance.

Noble House, which is backed by the private equity group Botts & Company, made an indicative bid of 500p August. The approach was dismissed as "too uncertain" by the W&D board, and there has since been no contact between the two groups.

Robert Breare, Noble House's chairman, said: "Our next move will be decided by our final assessment of the trading statement." He added: "We are trying to find some hard financial information in it which is not selective."

W&D shares closed up 13.5p at 481p on hopes that Mr Breare will increase his indicative offer to between 550p and 600p-a-share. Asked whether Noble House would be prepared to go hostile in order to clinch a deal, Mr Breare said: "We are seeking a board recommendation."

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