Soros moves to buy the NatWest Tower

Francesco Guerrera
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:40

GEORGE SOROS, the financier whose bet against sterling rocked the City in 1992, yesterday moved to buy one of its most famous landmarks, the NatWest Tower, when one of his companies launched a pounds 211m bid for the building's co-owner, Greycoat.

Delancey Estates - a property group where Mr Soros controls nearly 60 per cent of the shares - put an end to months of speculation by tabling a paper offer valuing each Greycoat share at around 195p.

The all-paper deal proposed by Delancey, where the chairman of British Land, John Ritblat, and his son James have a 30 per cent stake, was immediately rejected by the board of Greycoat, a specialist in central London office developments.

The Greycoat board slammed the offer by Delancey, which built up a stake of nearly 10 per cent over the past few months, as "derisory" and invited other bidders to enter the fray. The chief executive, Peter Thornton, said the company, which owns the NatWest Tower with Mercury Asset Management and Hermes, wanted to reward its long-suffering shareholders with a deal well above its net asset value of around 240p.

He hinted that the board was prepared to recommend an offer in cash or shares from a large property group such as British Land, Land Securities or Hammerson. The comments pushed Greycoat's share price up 31.5p to 200p. Delancey closed down 2.5p to 97.5p.

Mr Thornton revealed that he had planned to put the company up for sale after its final results in May in an attempt to end years of underperformance. However, he said the Delancey offer "significantly undervalues the company's assets and prospects".

The chief executive's view were backed by one of Greycoat's investors, who said that the the Delancey proposition was "not compelling at all".

James Ritblat, the managing director of Delancey, pointed out that the offer was at a 50 per cent premium to Greycoat's price before his company bought its stake.

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