Newcastle wait on Belgravia to announce £235m bid

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The Independent Online

Newcastle United were still awaiting a formal takeover bid yesterday amid claims that the Belgravia Group is ready to make its move. The Jersey-based investment group is reportedly preparing a £235m bid which would involve a lucrative property deal and up to 7,000 jobs. It is understood that no offer is imminent, although the chances are increasing. The Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has repeatedly insisted he has received no formal offer and challenged potential investors to make their move.

Both Belgravia and the United States hedge fund Polygon have expressed an interest, and the former chairman Sir John Hall has confirmed he has held talks over his holding, which amounts to around 29 per cent with his son Douglas controlling another 12 per cent. Shepherd, however, owns further 28 per cent and has shown few signs of being ready to relinquish his interest. There have been suggestions that Shepherd could launch his own takeover after gradually increasing his stake to take him close to the 30 per cent threshold at which he would have to make an offer to the remaining shareholders.

Should Belgravia make a move, Shepherd and the Halls would stand to make sizeable fortunes from selling out, although the headline figure could be misleading. If the total value of the project did amount to £235m, it is understood while that would mean a sizeable dividend for shareholders, it would also include the budget for whatever investment the new owners saw necessary in order to revive the club's fortunes.

The recent speculation, coupled with a £1m investment in shares by the Isle of Man-based equity fund Northcote (IOM) Ltd-Kapena Fund, has strengthened the club's share price, which stood at 70p earlier yesterday, valuing Newcastle at significantly more than £93m. Northcote bought 1,475,000 shares at 72.8p, costing a total of £1,073,800, but insisted that its purchase was not part of a takeover bid.

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