Pinewood Shepperton back £96m takeover offer

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The Independent Online

Pinewood Shepperton, the owner of film studios used for the James Bond and Harry Potter movies, gave its backing today to an improved £96 million takeover offer from the owner of the new Salford Quays media development.

Property and infrastructure firm Peel Holdings already owns almost 30% of Pinewood and has increased its offer by around £8 million in the face of rival takeover interest from former Harrods owner Mohamed al Fayed.

The board of Pinewood, led by former ITV chairman Michael Grade, said Peel had been a supportive shareholder and the takeover proposal provided the business with the long-term stability it needed.

The 75-year-old business is planning an ambitious £20 million Project Pinewood expansion at its studios in Buckinghamshire that will see it build new facilities and sets on a par with those found in Hollywood.

Its television studios have shot Dancing On Ice, Dragons' Den, BBC sitcom My Family, Piers Morgan's Life Stories and entertainment show Ant & Dec's Push The Button.

Peel said it expected Pinewood to operate independently of its own media assets, which include the new home for the BBC, ITV, Coronation Street and the University of Salford at the MediaCityUK development at Salford Quays.

The group invests in infrastructure, transport and real estate in the UK and has nearly £6 billion of assets. It recently sold the Trafford Centre to Capital Shopping Centres for £1.6 billion and is chaired by billionaire investor John Whittaker.

Mr Whittaker said: "Peel represents a long-term strategic partner for Pinewood in continuing to grow and develop the business."

Peel's bid has won the support of activist shareholder Crystal Amber, which owns around 28.9% of Pinewood and has been critical of the company's board leadership in recent years.

Its backing for the Peel bid can only be dislodged if a new bidder comes in with a proposal worth not less than 250p a share.

Mr Fayed, who co-funded the Oscar-winning film Chariots Of Fire in 1981, last week revealed his interest in a possible bid for the firm.