Sir Tom sells Booker shares
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Sir Tom Hunter and a group of investors on Thursday raised £29.6m by placing some of their shares in Booker, the cash-and-carry operator, a day after the Scottish entrepreneur raised his stake in Dobbies Garden Centres by 10 per cent to 20.6 per cent.
The group, also including Kevin Stanford, Baugur and Kaupthing Bank, are all part of a consortium backing Sir Tom as he battles with Tesco to secure the chain of garden centres.
Dobbies shares rose sharply in morning trading, up 260p to £17.58 on the news of Sir Tom’s increased stake which came after trading hours ended on Wednesday. Sir Tom had paid £17.50 a share for the extra 10 per cent.
The jump in the share price puts it firmly above the £15 a share bid Tesco made for the garden centre group last week. Sir Tom, whose West Coast Capital owns Wyevale Garden Centres and Blooms of Bressingham through a consortium which includes Baugur, the Icelandic investment firm, is thought to be attempting to at least block Tesco’s bid for Dobbies.
Booker, the cash and carry wholesaler, which reversed into Aim-listed Blueheath in May, reported annual results on Thursday morning and said that large shareholders had placed a total of 223m shares, or 15 per cent of the share capital, at 25p, raising £55.8m.
Booker shares rose ¼p to 29½p in morning trading.
In the placing TBH Trading, a wholly owned subsidiary of West Coast Capital, raised £6.1m selling 24.4m shares, and retains a 5.79 per cent stake in Booker.
Kaupthing, the Icelandic bank through which Sir Tom acquired the Dobbies shares on Tuesday, sold £7.4m-worth of shares but retains 6.19 per cent of Booker. Milton, a company ultimately owned by Baugur, cut its stake by £14.1m-worth, to 31.38 per cent of Booker. Mr Stanford, an associate of Baugur’s, sold £2m-worth, and keeps a 4.42 per cent stake.
The biggest seller was the Bank of Scotland, part of HBOS, the bank which has been involved with many or Sir Tom’s deals, which cut its stake to 4.99 per cent by selling £26.2m-worth of its investment in Booker.
Baugur and its associates have been involved in Booker since 2004 when the Icelandic group bought the Iceland frozen food retailer which had previously merged with Booker.
The placing had been expected since Booker took over Blueheath in order to make the shares easier to trade. Charles Wilson, Booker’s chief executive, said “the outcome of the placing shows that investors are behind our plans to create a dynamic new force in the UK wholesale market.”
Earlier the group had said profits for the financial year had been in line with figures given when Booker reversed into Blueheath.
Booker made a pre-tax profit of £6.3m in the year to March 30 compared to a loss of £142.1m the previous year. Blueheath’s financial year ran to March 3 and it made a pre-tax loss of £7.1m up from £5.3m the previous year.
Mr Wilson said the integration of the two companies was going to plan and sales so far in the current year were ahead of the same period last year.
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