Whittaker faces fight for Pinewood

Posted by Neil Hume on Jun 16 15:02. 7 comments | Share

Billionaire property developer John Whittaker will not be amused.Someone is trying to throw a spanner in the works of his 200p a share bid for James Bond and Harry Potter film studio Pinewood-Shepperton. More…

Billionaire property developer John Whittaker will not be amused.

Someone is trying to throw a spanner in the works of his 200p a share bid for James Bond and Harry Potter film studio Pinewood-Shepperton.

That someone is Warren James Holdings, which owns a chain of jewellers. They have quietly amassed a 15 per cent stake in Pinewood and are in the market bidding for more — they are offering 210p for stock through Brewin Dolphin. They managed to pick up just over 4m shares this morning.

Now, Warren James won’t be able to block Whittaker’s 200p a share cash offer. Whittaker’s Peel Holdings already controls 29.8 per cent of Pinewood and he only requires 50.1 per cent acceptances for the offer to be declared unconditional. (Whittaker recently flipped his bid from a scheme of arrangement to a straight takeover offer because he was worried someone would seek to scupper the transaction).

However, they could make life difficult for the owner of Liverpool’s John Lennon airport. Whittaker would not, for example, be able to squeeze out the minority shareholders.

Now, it’s highly unlikely Warren James wants to a launch a counter bid for Peel.  But someone else might and note the irrevocable undertakings given by Pinewood’s other 29 per cent shareholder, Crystal Amber, in favour of Whittaker’s offer lapse in the event of a counter offer above 250p a share.

And as the FT reported at the end of May there may be other bidders waiting in the wings.

A European investment fund has emerged as a potential rival bidder for Pinewood Shepperton film studios following last month’s recommended offer from Peel Holdings, the studio’s largest shareholder, valuing the business at £96.1m ($158.5m).

The mystery fund is understood to have hired Zurich-based investment advisers Clariden Leu. It has not yet approached the board of Pinewood and its interest may not necessarily lead to an offer.

However, time is fast running out. The first closing date for the deal is tomorrow.

Alternatively, Warren James might just want Whittaker to increase his offer to something nearer the price Mohammed Fayed, the former Harrods owner, was prepared to pay. That was also 250p a share. Or they might just be happy to remain a minority shareholder in a private company.

Either way we are about to find out just how much Whittaker wants Pinewood and its property.

At pixel time, shares in Pinewood were 7.8p higher at 210p.

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