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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Brewer defends independence
Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries beer brands
Wolverhampton & Dudley: Owner of some of the UK's best known ales
Britain's largest independent brewer, which has become a repeated target for takeover attempts, has rejected as inadequate a last-minute 453m offer.

Tavern operator Pubmistress, which is backed by German bank West LB, has become the latest suitor to be rebuffed by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries (W&D), owner of the Pitcher & Piano bar chain and beer brands such as Marston's and Banks's.

Pubmistress, which runs about 2,000 pubs, on Friday launched a hostile 480p-a-share bid for W&D, having seen a higher bid rejected by the brewer's board two days earlier.

The bid, entered minutes before a deadline imposed by UK takeover authorities, represented a 1.6% premium on W&D shares.

But W&D chairman David Miller said the offer failed "to reflect the performance" of the brewer.

"Pubmistress is trying to buy W&D on the cheap," he said.

Shake-up

The offer is the latest twist in a saga dating back almost a year, when Wolverhampton & Dudley received a takeover approach from hotels magnate Robert Breare.

While W&D rejected the offer as inadequate and "too uncertain", the brewer in October launched a strategic review to consider strategic options including takeover.

In April, the firm, which has run up debts through deals such as the 1999 takeover of the brewer Mansfield, revealed plans to focus on its beers and community pubs portfolios, with 130 other outlets, including the Pitcher & Piano chain, put up for sale.

The firm also earmarked its Mansfield brewery for closure, and has "made progress" in selling its Camerons brewery.

W&D, which managers have also considered buying out themselves, on Monday said that, following the launch of the restructuring, it had "confidence for the future".

City reaction

Pubmistress was formed by backers including West LB and property firms Rotch and St Mowden as a vehicle for implementing the 500m buyout of Pubmaster in December.

Pubmaster was itself bought by managers from the conglomerate Brent Walker in 1996, for 171m.

In the City, W&D shares closed unchanged at 472.5p on Monday.

Pubmistress has offered W&D shareholders 480p per share.

See also:

31 May 01 | Business
SAB eyes Bass Brewers
10 May 01 | Business
Foster's 'not aware' of Heineken bid
12 Apr 01 | Business
Guinness brewers strike
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