Gondola buoyed by bid

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September 6: PizzaExpress owner Gondola Holdings has received a £559m takeover approach from a bidder we believe is not another British restaurant group. The cash approach was at 415p, sending the shares up 10 per cent to a four seasons high. Key to the outcome will be TDR Capital, the private equity group which owns 32 per cent of the group. Gondola, which was floated in November at 320p and is chaired by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, also owns the ASK and Zizzi chains.

As we and others had predicted, holders of some 95 per cent of GUS bonds due in 2013 declined the group’s buy-back offer. This takes us into very interesting territory: some lawyers believe GUS is technically in default and that the bondholders can demand repayment at par from GUS at any time, and that this might hamper future capital raisings. GUS insists this will not derail its demerger of its Argos Retail Group and Experian.

In addition to doing more on GUS, we’ll also return to our front page story this morning about Baugur considering a possible break-up bid for Woolworths. Elsewhere in retail, DSG International, the electricals retailer, is moving into Turkey through a deal with the powerful Sabanci family, which controls one of Turkey’s biggest industrial conglomerates. DSG also published an underwhelming trading statement.

Interesting to see BP the subject of yet more troubles in the US. This time, a lawsuit in New York alleges the group manipulated the crude oil price by refusing to open its US storage facilities. We have no idea at this stage whether this is serious or whether the oil futures trader who filed the suit is just trying his luck. BP has no comment at the moment.

And once again, we are awash with company results: Gallaher (in line with expectations), Tullow Oil (not wildly impressive), Wilson Bowden (also in line), Carillion (hopes to be bidding for Network Rail work again very soon after safety concerns, optimistic about the full-year results), Derwent Valley (good), UK Coal (back in profit but warning of lower than expected coal output in the second half), Paddy Power (profiting from the World Cup and the Pope). There are more.

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