FIVE-A-SIDE football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres is expected to ask for yet more time to work through discussions about a possible takeover bid from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTTP).
If the Takeover Panel agrees another reprieve to tomorrow’s deadline, it will be the third extension granted since Goals confirmed on 2 April that it is in preliminary talks with the Canadian pension fund. The panel’s original cut-off date of 30 April has already been stretched by six weeks.
Spokesmen for both sides insisted that discussions were progressing as normal, with no suggestions as to what might be the cause of the delays. Analysts are expecting a bid of between 130p and 158p a share, with some strongly guiding towards the lower end of that range.
There is no limit to the number of extensions that may be granted in a UK takeover, so long as the request comes from the target company and the Panel is satisfied that discussions are making headway.
The longest such saga was the acquisition of UK set-top maker Harvard International by China’s Chengdu Geeya Technology. The deadline for a firm offer from the Chinese manufacturer was extended six times, from 26 October 2011 to 5 April of this year, as Chengdu dealt with Beijing’s regulatory requirements.
The Panel tightened takeover rules last year in a bid to reduce the amount of time a company can be “in play”, setting an automatic 28-day “put up or shut up” (PUSU) deadline for a bid to be tabled. Extensions were to be difficult to acquire lest the granting of too many undermined the effect of the automatic PUSU.
Based in East Kilbride, AIM-quoted Goals operates 42 centres across the UK, as well as one US site in Los Angeles. If the $117 billion (£73bn) OTPP is successful with a bid, it is thought to be keen to expand the operation.
Goals’ largest shareholder is chief executive Keith Rogers, who led a management buy-out of the business in 2000. His 8.4 per cent stake was valued at more than £5.2m on the basis of last week’s closing share price of 128.5p.
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