Powerleague’s on the ball after revealing possible bid for Goals

SHARES in Goals Soccer Centres leapt more than 7 per cent today after a rival five-a-side operator pitched in and said it was mulling an offer, with analysts predicting a £70 million-plus price tag.

Patron Capital Partners, which paid £42.5m for a controlling stake in Paisley-based Powerleague in 2009, said it was considering its options regarding Goals, which is based in East Kilbride. It stressed there was no certainty that it would make a bid.

Goals is already the subject of a possible bid from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), which has been given until next Monday to announce whether it will make an offer.

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The firm said it remains in talks with OTPP and further announcements will be made “as and when appropriate”.

Insiders said the emergence of a possible bid from Patron was not a surprise, but stressed it was too early to say whether a firm bid would eventually emerge from either suitor.

Powerleague runs 45 sites, including six across the Central Belt, with 470 pitches used by more than 130,000 players each week.

It has said it believes there is the potential for more than 100 centres in the UK, with five-a-side participation having exceeded 11-a-side for the past two decades.

Patron has until 30 July to confirm whether it will press ahead with a bid for the rival football pitch business. It said: “There can be no certainty any offer will be made, or as to the terms of any offer.”

Goals’ largest shareholder is chief executive Keith Rogers, who led a management buy-out of the business in 2000 and has an 8.4 per cent stake in the firm.

OTPP is one of Canada’s biggest pension funds and owns National Lottery operator Camelot. The business invests the pension assets and administers the pensions of 295,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario, and a source said it had a strong reputation as a long-term investor.

If the C$117 billion (£73bn) fund is successful with a bid, it is thought to be keen to expand operations at Goals, which has 42 centres across the UK – including three in Scotland – and one in Los Angeles.

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Analysts have suggested that Goals could attract a bid of more than £76m and shares in the firm soared as the market considered the prospect of a looming takeover battle. Shares ended the day up 9.5p, or 7.5 per cent, at 136.5p, giving the company a market capitalisation of around £66.4m.

OTPP has been granted three extensions to its deadline for talks over a possible takeover offer and has until 9 July to continue its discussions.

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 and the City’s Takeover Panel is satisfied that discussions are making headway.

A typical Goals centre has between nine and 14 floodlit pitches made from artificial grass, parking for about 100 cars and a licensed bar. The firm added ten centres in the past two years.

Pre-tax profits rose 21 per cent to £9.2m last year, on overall sales 9 per cent higher at £30.4m.

The group is planning to resume its expansion next year after it evaluates a new building method designed to cut the cost and time involved in creating its facilities.

Its first “modular build” centre opened in Chester earlier this year and the concept aims to cut the cost per site by about £800,000, with construction time reduced from 22 to 14 weeks.