Stakis wants to buy mid-market Forte hotels

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Financial Editor

Stakis, the hotel and casino group, has thrown its hat in the ring to buy some of the mid-range hotels acquired by Granada following its successful bid for the Forte group.

David Michels, chief executive, said yesterday he hoped to have talks soon on the subject with Gerry Robinson, Granada's chief executive. The two men are close and were in contact during the bid battle for Forte, but no formal talks concerning the hotels purchase have been held.

"We're not interested in the 'trophy' hotels or the Meridien chain, but we would be keen on buying some of the three- and four-star hotels," a Stakis spokesman said. "Whatever Robinson might put up in London, any or all of them would be within our grasp."

The defeated Sir Rocco Forte has announced his intention to get City backing to repurchase the upmarket hotels.

"I think Rocco is after the more luxury and international hotels, and we are after the more mid-market hotels, if any are for sale," Mr Michels said.

A leading analyst said: "Stakis is probably one of the best run businesses in the UK sector. They have the highest rate of return. A deal could make a lot of sense."

Stakis has been steadily expanding its hotel business for the past two years, which helped the group to a 28 per cent profits increase to pounds 26m in 1995, despite a decline at its casinos.

The group currently has 43 hotels with a total of just over 5,000 rooms.

It issued an upbeat trading statement yesterday, saying that in the 13 weeks to the end of December, room occupancy rose to 72 per cent and the casino business showed modest gains. Stakis shares, which have performed strongly over the past year, closed down 2 at 87p.

Mr Robinson and Granada's chief operating officer, Charles Allen, spent much of yesterday at Forte's HQ seeking to reassure staff.

At their first meeting with staff below department head level, they said that salaries would be paid and there would be no fast organisational changes.

The broking houses BZW and ABN Amro Hoare Govett, both advisers to Granada on the bid, are believed to have placed 26 million Granada shares yesterday at 693p.

Forte will be replaced in the FT-SE 100 index after the close of business on 30 January, the FT-SE Actuaries UK Indices Committee said. It will be replaced by the largest company on the reserve list at that time.

The five companies on the replacement list are Anglian Water, Greenalls Group, MEPC, Next and Mercury Asset Management, the fund manager whose decision to sell its 14 per cent stake in Forte is credited with having swung the takeover battle.