Shares in Hammerson soared after a French rival launched an audacious £4.9bn bid for the company – throwing its planned tie-up with Intu into doubt.
Paris-based Klepierre, which runs more than 100 shopping centres across Europe, tabled an offer of 615p a share for the British owner of the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham (pictured) and Brent Cross in north London.
Hammerson rejected the bid but shares jumped 24 per cent, or 105.3p, to 542.4p amid signs the French will continue to pursue a deal. A source close to Klepierre said: ‘We are not going away. We think this is a good deal for our shareholders and Hammerson shareholders.’
The approach was seen as a vote of confidence in Brexit Britain and the future of UK shopping centres in the face of a deepening crisis on the High Street that has left a host of stores fighting for survival.
But interest in Hammerson from France threatens to derail its planned £3.4bn takeover of Intu, whose estate includes the Metro Centre in Gateshead and Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester.
Hammerson insisted a tie-up with Intu would make the company ‘the undisputed market leaders in the UK with 19 of the top 30 shopping centres’.
Rejecting the bid from Klepierre, Hammerson chairman David Tyler added: ‘The proposal is wholly inadequate and entirely opportunistic.’ But analysts said shareholders may be interested in an alternative to the Intu deal.
The proposed tie-up with Intu has received a frosty reception, with Hammerson shares sinking 18 per cdntbetween the deal being announced in December and the recovery yesterday on the back of the Klepierre bid.
Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: ‘The share price of embattled Hammerson has slumped since it announced its agreed bid for Intu, so the opportunistic offer that Klepierre has made is not quite as generous as it looks. But, with many of its fashion and department store tenants in some trouble, Hammerson is going to have to work hard now to convince its shareholders of the merits of the Intu deal.’
Describing Klepierre as a ‘wedding crasher’, Peel Hunt analyst Matthew Saperia said: ‘The marriage of convenience is looking considerably less likely. Despite the board rejection, Hammerson is in play and the likelihood of its proposed merger with Intu proceeding has decreased considerably.’
He said appetite among shareholders for a deal with Klepierre may be ‘more balanced than the quick rebuttal by Hammerson’s board would suggest’ given concerns about shopping habits in Britain. Klepierre, which is worth £9bn, owns more than 100 shopping centres in 16 countries across Europe but has no presence in the UK or Ireland.
Its largest shareholder is US shopping centre operator Simon Property Group, whose chief executive, the American property tycoon David Simon, is chairman of Klepierre’s supervisory board.
Simon attempted to buy Intu in 2011 when it was called Capital Shopping Centres. However, Klepierre is understood to be interested in Hammerson’s portfolio but not Intu’s.