Owners denies offer story

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The Independent Online
OWNERS Abroad was yesterday subjected to more bid rumours pointing to a 95p-per-share offer from LTU of Germany. Shares initially gained 6.5p to 76p, before closing at 73p, valuing the company at pounds 110m.

Howard Klein, chairman of Owners, said: 'I know of no offer from LTU.' Wolfgang Osinski, a spokesman for LTU, said: 'There is nothing to these rumours.'

However, industry observers said LTU might be a smokescreen for the takeover ambitions of Metro, a Swiss holding outfit that owns 30 per cent of LTU.

Metro has been steadily increasing its presence in Europe's travel industry through takeovers. The purchases have been made through International Tourist Services, owner of Jet Reisen of Germany, Holland International, Travelplan of Spain, and Sun International of Belgium.

LTU itself is one of Europe's largest package tour operators. It recently bought the Thomas Cook travel agency business from Midland Bank for pounds 200m.

Recent bid rumours surrounding Owners prompted the Takeover Panel on Tuesday to ask the company to issue a clarifying statement.

Owners, the second-largest tour operator in the UK, announced to the Stock Exchange that 'some weeks ago it received a tentative approach . . . but no proposal had been received'.

Yesterday's rumours appear to have been sparked off by an article in the Travel Trade Gazette. The article suggested that LTU had admitted to having talks with Owners.