Permira ponders De Vere challenge

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The Independent Online

Permira, the private equity firm vying with Richard Balfour-Lynn's Alternative Hotel Group to take over De Vere, the hotel and leisure group, is considering challenging a side deal agreed between AHG and one of De Vere's main investors.

Permira is preparing an 840p formal offer to trump AHG's agreed 825p-a-share deal with De Vere. As part of the deal, AHG agreed to sell De Vere's Carden Park hotel and golf complex in Cheshire for £42m to Steve Morgan, the founder of the housebuilder Redrow who owns a stake of more than 13 per cent in De Vere and sits on its board as a non-executive director. In return, Mr Morgan has agreed to accept the offer from AHG. The hotel is adjacent to Mr Morgan's personal estate and was built by him.

Under UK takeover rules, such side deals are banned unless other shareholders approve, and the advisers to the target company - in this case, UBS - say it is a fair price. Permira is now considering complaining to the Takeover Panel.

AHG has received acceptances from a fifth of De Vere's shareholders, but on Monday Permira urged investors to sit tight. It has teamed up with Royal Bank of Scotland and Jamie Ritblat's property firm Delancey to make an offer for De Vere in the coming week.

Permira has lined up Tony Troy, who runs the six-strong Principal Hotels group which the private equity firm has just acquired from RBS, as the new chief executive of De Vere.