UK: Mitchells & Butlers venture collapse prompts takeover talk
The chief executive of UK pub operator Mitchells & Butlers has tendered his resignation, after the company lost GBP391m (US$776.4m) on a failed property venture.
Tim Clarke offered to stand down earlier this week, the company said on Tuesday (29 January), but the board declined the offer. Finance director Karim Nafah was not so lucky, however, with the board accepting his resignation.
The joint venture with investment company R20 ran into trouble in August last year, when "the current disruption of the debt markets ... has resulted in a significant widening of credit spreads". M&B had planned to sell a raft of its pubs in the UK, but saw debt market conditions deteriorate in July, leaving the joint venture with hedge instruments for the move in place but unable to fund the transaction.
"Maintaining the hedge position to utilise in a property-based transaction, which was now highly unlikely to occur in the near future, became a risk that could no longer be justified," the company said this week.
The collapse of the transaction has triggered a possible takeover battle for M&B, with the company admitting that it has received several "preliminary and tentative expressions of interest". When contacted by just-drinks today (1 February), a spokesperson for M&B declined to give further details of these expressions. When asked about future developments in this area, the spokeseperson said: "It depends on whether any of the interest expressions turn into anything more concrete."
The spokesperson also said that, with the launch this week of "a strategic review for value creation", M&B's board will report back to shareholders in May.
At the same time as detailing the joint venture collapse, M&B said in a trading statement that sales for the 17 weeks to 26 January rose by 0.7% on the corresponding period a year earlier.
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