Belfast Telegraph

US property group steps up takeover bid on mall operator

A US property giant has stepped up the pressure on Britain's biggest shopping mall owner as it seeks to garner support for a £3bn takeover approach.

Simon Property Group said its board had given the go-ahead to make a full offer at 425p a share for Capital Shopping Centres, which owns the Lakeside and Metro shopping centres in England, and confirmed it had pulled together a loan to enable it to fund the purchase.

But Simon, which already owns a 5% stake in Capital, claims the company it is circling refuses to speak to it or give it the financial information it needs to make a full offer.

The bitter row has been complicated because Simon wants Capital to drop a £1.6bn bid for the Trafford Centre in Manchester, which it says is overpriced.

The US giant believes the bid for the Trafford Centre undervalues Capital by giving away up to 20% of shares to the mall's owner Peel Holdings, which is controlled by billionaire John Whittaker.

Simon renewed its previous appeal for Capital's board to return to the negotiating table as its "put up or shut up" deadline fast approaches.

The Takeover Panel recently gave Simon until 5pm on January 12 to make a bid or walk away, after which time it cannot bid for six months.

However, Capital has already rejected Simon's indicative proposal at 425p a share, accusing it of trying to "frustrate" its bid to buy the Trafford Centre. Capital was forced to postpone a shareholder vote on the Trafford Centre acquisition until January 26, after Simon's deadline to make a bid has expired.

Capital believes the Trafford acquisition would cement its position as the leading UK shopping centre group with 14 sites, including four of the country's top six out-of-town destinations.