Union pulls out of takeover talks

Union, the former discount house which is being restructured, has pulled out of takeover talks, it emerged yesterday.

Graeme Knox, executive chairman, said that since news of a possible takeover was made public in February, Union had been talking to companies which had shown interest in the group. "We have concluded, however, that at the current time none of these discussions will lead to an offer that fairly reflects the value of the company and which therefore we can recommend to shareholders," he said.

The news, which accompanied the announcement of a plunge into losses of pounds 11.9m for 1996, left the shares 1.5p lower at 84.5p.

Speculation about a bidder for the group has centred on Joe Lewis, the reclusive Bahamas-based billionaire who in January raised his stake in Union to 24 per cent. He is thought to have used Union for some of his foreign exchange dealing operations. However, the company would not identify the possible bidders yesterday.

Mr Knox, who joined as non-executive chairman from Scottish Amicable last year, took on executive responsibilities at Union after the departure of George Blunden, the former chief executive, and Ian Martin, the former managing director, in February.

Last year's loss, which replaced profits of pounds 1.37m last time, came after a slew of exceptional items. The reorganisation of the business, including the withdrawal from discount house operations, has been taken as a pounds 3.2m charge against profits. As well as the two executive directors, the company is making 47 people redundant, leaving it with a staff expected to be 91.

Mr Knox said that after a "painful" review of the value of assets, a figure of 94.4p a share had been arrived at.

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