Thursday 22 February 2018

Lewis ups M&B stake to 26pc fuelling fresh bid prospect

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

BAHAMAS-based billionaire Joe Lewis has upped his stake in UK pub group Mitchells & Butlers to over 26pc, raising the prospect of a fresh takeover assault by the investor on the business. Irish horse racing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus jointly own about 21pc of the business.

A stock exchange filing yesterday revealed that Mr Lewis' Piedmont investment vehicle has boosted its holding in Mitchells & Butlers by acquiring an additional 1.44m shares valued at about £3.3m (€4.1m).

That brought the total number of shares owned by Piedmont to 107.8 million. They're currently worth about £244m (€305m).

Last year, Mr Lewis parked his super yacht on London's Thames from where he orchestrated a takeover attempt for M&B.

In August, he tabled an indicative offer that was rejected by the M&B board. He was accused of attempting to acquire the business, which operates about 1,500 pubs across Britain under names such as O'Neill's and All-Bar-One, on the cheap from shareholders. He had initially suggested that he'd be prepared to offer £2.30 per share. Yesterday, M&B stock was changing hands for £2.27.

After failing to pursue the takeover, Mr Lewis was subject to a six-month cooling off period under takeover rules. That period has now expired, leaving him free to launch another effort to acquire the company.

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