Spurs directors make move for Countryside Properties

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Rock Pacific, an investment vehicle with the backing of Joe Lewis, the billionaire currency speculator, is conducting due diligence for a possible bid to trump an agreed £218m offer for the housebuilder Countryside Properties.

Rock Pacific, an investment vehicle with the backing of Joe Lewis, the billionaire currency speculator, is conducting due diligence for a possible bid to trump an agreed £218m offer for the housebuilder Countryside Properties.

The other shareholders in Rock include Paul Kemsley, a property entrepreneur and a Tottenham Hotspur director, and Daniel Levy, the businessman behind Enic, which owns stakes in a clutch of European football clubs, including Spurs.

Rock has been building a stake in Countryside that now stands at 28.1 per cent. If it successfully buys the housebuilder, it would be breaking up what had appeared to be a done deal. Last month Countryside recommended a 275p-a-share offer from its chairman, Alan Cherry.

The Cherry family owns 17 per cent of the company. As well as Alan Cherry, two of his sons are also executive directors of Countryside. Graham Cherry is chief executive, while Richard Cherry is new business director.

Countryside shares closed up 5p at 287.5p yesterday. Analysts said they were surprised that any party was considering outbidding the Cherry family. Some believe that Rock may just be playing a short-term game to force the Cherrys to raise their bid, thus providing it with a tidy profit.

One analyst said: "It's quite a full price that management are offering and Countryside is not a particularly well run housebuilder."

Countryside does have an attractive land-bank. It owns or controls land with potential for 22,850 homes. Only a quarter has planning consents so far.

Countryside's independent directors announced yesterday they had received a request for financial information from Rock "to enable it to consider whether it wishes to make an offer for the company". The data is being made available.

"Matters are at a very preliminary stage and, to date, no definitive discussions have taken place with Rock Pacific as to the price, terms and conditions of any possible offer," Countryside said. Under takeover rules, any offer from Rock would have to be pitched at 280p a share or more.

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