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Dobbies confirms bid talks; speculation links it with venture capital group

Published: 30 May 2007
Dobbies has become the centre of fevered speculation after its board confirmed a bid approach for the acquisition of the entire company.
Dobbies confirms bid talks; speculation links it with venture capital group
A statement issued by the garden centre chain said discussions have taken place which may or may not lead to an offer.

A further announcement will be made in due course, it added.

The Scottish-based company did not give any details on who it could be.

But speculation is mounting that the bidder was not from West Coast Capital, Sir Tom Hunter's vehicle which owns 10.6%, but a venture capital firm, possibly Apax, who bought Swedish garden centre chain Plantagen in December last year.

However, Sir Tom Hunter has a pivotal role in the outcome with his 10.6% stake.

"This is enough to prevent a compulsory acquisition of shares if he so wishes," brokerage house Seymour Pierce said in a note.

The broker forecasts two scenarios. First, Sir Tom Hunter 'forces the predator to pay through the nose' or second, he blocks the take-over.

Sir Tom has been expected to bid for Dobbies since the purchase of Wyevale Garden Centres for £311 million in 2006 and a £30 million takeover of Blooms of Bressingham in February this year.

In January, Dobbies posted an 11% increase in annual pre-tax profit to £5.4 million on sales up 13.5% to £68.8m.

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