Private equity firm Apax revealed as bidder for HIT

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Hit Entertainment, the company behind Bob the Builder, will use today's interim results announcement to unmask the mystery bidder that has offered 300p per share to acquire it as Apax Partners.

Shareholders are expected to back a £475m takeover bid from the private equity group, although the offer falls well short of the £800m peak in HIT's market value five years ago.

The all-cash bid already has the support of Peter Orton, HIT's founder and chairman who has a 6.3 per cent stake, and Charles Burdick, the chief executive, which will give Apax the all clear to begin examining HIT's books.

Talpa Beheer, the Dutch company behind Big Brother that owns 8 per cent of HIT's shares, has signalled it would back a bid at 300p per share. Mike Luckwell, a 7 per cent shareholder and former HIT director, is also believed to have said he will take the cash, as has the US-based Leach family, who also have a 7 per cent shareholding. HIT's shares surged 17 per cent to 293p on Friday after it confirmed the 300p-per-share bid approach.

HIT is the second quoted company Apax will begin due diligence on this week. On Friday, Woolworths' board capitulated to its stalker after Apax raised its bid for the retailer to £843m. Sealing a deal to buy Woolworths will give Apax a useful distribution channel for HIT's merchandise. HIT's characters include the cast of Thomas the Tank Engine and Barney the Dinosaur.

Although HIT has built up a significant collection of intellectual property rights, it has struggled in recent months, ousting its chief executive after a profit warning last October. The company also owns the Guinness World Records publishing business. It is thought this would be sold to a separate private equity bidder.

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