EasyHotel is to be taken over by real estate investor Ivanhoé Cambridge and property fund manager ICAMAP, despite objections from its billionaire founder Stelios Haji-Iannou, who said they were “simply trying to steal this company from under the noses of other investors”.
The bidding companies, working as a consortium under the banner of Citrus UK Bidco, announced a takeover attempt earlier this month, which valued the group’s shares at roughly £139m and gave it an enterprise value of £126m.
On Wednesday, they said they now either hold or have received acceptances for shares carrying more than 50 per cent of company’s voting rights.
The offer, which values easyHotel’s shares at 95 pence, has been welcomed by the board but dismissed by Sir Stelios. He said that the price gave “no value” to the business beyond its bricks-and-mortar assets.
Sir Stelios, who founded the hotel chain in 2004, is attempting to increase his stake from 27.5 per cent to just under 30 per cent — the limit after which an investor has to launch a formal takeover bid — ahead of a September 17 deadline for final acceptances of the offer.
However, on Wednesday, the travel entrepreneur had so far only managed to purchase 10,000 shares at 95 pence and another 9,359 shares at 96 pence, which Sir Stelios said was proof that ICAMAP and Ivanhoé Cambridge had undervalued the company and were “buying out other [shareholders] on the cheap”.
Luxembourg-based ICAMAP and Ivanhoé Cambridge of Canada declined to comment.
The bidding consortium’s latest offer represents a 34.8 per cent premium over the stock’s closing price ahead of the previous tender of 70.5 pence per share.
The shares were up fractionally at 94.8p in early afternoon trading in London on Wednesday.
EasyHotel opened its first venue in South Kensington in 2005. The company runs 38 hotels under owned and franchised models, which, like the easyJet airline, target the budget end of the market. Rooms in its London hotels cost roughly £70 to £80 a night.
For each night sold, Sir Stelios’s easyGroup receives 0.75 per cent in royalties for use of the “easy” brand. In 2018, this resulted in a total payment from easyHotel to the parent group of £274,000.
In its 2018 annual report, easyHotel reported profit before tax of £872,162. Total revenue from its hotel estate was £11.3m.
Sir Stelios said that he was building his stake in order that Bidco, as the consortium is known, would not be able to take the company private by acquiring more than 75 per cent of the business.
“I am delighted they want to put investment behind the company, the question is at what price,” Sir Stelios said.
He urged “fellow shareholders is to do the same as me and reject the offer at 95p and hang on in there”.
In a statement at the time of the offer announcement Harm Meijer, managing director of ICAMAP, said that the fund manager had been a shareholder since 2016 and supported two capital raising initiatives. “However,” he added, “we also believe that the company needs a change in its shareholder base in order for easyHotel to become a true leading pan-European budget hotel player.”
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