Suitors court store outlet company Freeport

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The Independent Online

Shares in the shopping outlet operator Freeport shot 10 per cent higher yesterday after it revealed it was being courted by several prospective bidders.

They include Laxey Partners, the activist investor that is its biggest shareholder with a 29.75 per cent stake, which made a takeover approach earlier this year. Other suitors include GI Partners, the private-equity group, and Kenmore, a private property company.

Freeport, in limbo since March when it ousted its founder and executive chairman Sean Collidge, described the approaches as "very preliminary". Its shares climbed 41.25p to 444.25p.

The company owns Europe's biggest designer outlet shopping village, just outside Lisbon, and has others in the Czech Republic and Poland. It also has a site under development in Scotland. Last month it admitted the value of its property portfolio had slumped 12.5 per cent.

Mr Collidge is in a legal battle with his former employer about allegations he abused company funds for his own use. Laxey Partners led the campaign to get rid of him. Freeport has lined up Iestyn Roberts to take over from him.

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