Intu shares soar as consortium mulls shopping centre spree

Shares in Intu rocketed on Friday following confirmation that a consortium of investors is mounting a multibillion-pound takeover of the shopping centre owner.

John Whittaker’s Peel Group is leading a group consisting of Saudi Arabia’s Olayan and Canada’s Brookfield in a bid to take control of Intu.

Mr Whittaker is deputy chairman of Intu and Peel Group holds around 26% in the shopping centre firm, while Olayan holds about 3.5%.

Shares in Intu rose almost 30% to 190.8p when the market opened, giving it a value of about £2.5 billion.

Property companies British Land, Hammerson and Land Securities also saw their shares boosted on the back of the news.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “At this level, despite the near £5 billion of debt and the pressure on rental values, you’d think that buying Intu was a pretty cheap way into its two flagship assets, the Trafford Centre in Manchester (which is valued at £2.2 billion gross) and Lakeside (which is valued at £1.3 billion gross).”

Intu is behind 18 shopping centres across the UK, including the Trafford and Arndale Centres in Manchester and Metrocentre in Gateshead.

Thurrock Lakeside
The Lakeside shopping centre in Essex is valued at £1.3bn (Ian West/PA)

Its shares have been under pressure since a £3.4 billion takeover by rival Hammerson fell through earlier this year.

In an announcement after the close of trading on Thursday, Mr Whittaker’s group said: “The consortium’s consideration of the possible offer is at a preliminary and exploratory stage and no approach has been made to the board of Intu.”

Intu said it had not received an approach from the consortium, but added: “The board has formed an independent committee comprising all directors of Intu other than John Whittaker, who is connected to the consortium.”

“The independent committee will consider any approach from the consortium, if made, and a further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”

The consortium has until November 1 to make a firm offer for Intu.

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