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Ultimate may face bidders

19 January 2006
Ultimate may face bidders

Bar and nightclub operator Ultimate Leisure may soon face a takeover just a month after failing to buy rival Inventive Leisure.

Ultimate issued a profits warning at the end of last week stating that trading over the important Christmas and New Year period and into January "has proved to be very difficult".

The company blamed the lack of historic investment in its bars which meant it was unable to compete effectively. Its nightclub business also suffered due to the opening of "significant new competition".

Overall, this will mean that the second half of its year to 30 June will see a "material shortfall in sales" leading to profits that are "substantially below current market expectations".

As if in anticipation of a bidding war, the trading update from Ultimate said that a revaluation of its assets had put a price of around £80m on the group rather than the £66m value of its estate that is carried in its books.

Ultimate's attempt to acquire vodka bar chain Inventive failed after private equity firm Alchemy Partners secured more than half of its shares just before Christmas.

Now that Ultimate itself is a potential target, Regent Inns is tipped as a likely predator. Regent had also been interested in Inventive.

By Andrew Sangster

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