Rock Pacific, the investment vehicle backed by wealthy businessmen Joe Lewis, Paul Kemsley and Daniel Levy, was this week poised to make an offer for Countryside Properties.
Rock has built up a 28.1% stake in the housebuilder and a statement from the board to the stock exchange on Wednesday afternoon said: “The company has been approached by Rock Pacific requesting access to due diligence information to enable it to consider whether it wishes to make an offer.”
The statement said talks were at a “very preliminary stage” and that no definitive discussions had taken place about the price, terms or conditions of an offer.
Countryside said it was making the announcement in response to press speculation.
An offer from Rock would rival that of the Cherry family, whose 275p a share offer was backed by the independent directors. This valued the company at £218m. The Cherry family, headed by chairman Alan, owns just under 20% of Countryside shares.
Rock would have to offer at least 280p a share for the company, valuing it at about £224m, according to takeover panel rules.
Lewis is a billionaire, and Kemsley and Levy are Tottenham Hotspur board members. Shares in Countryside remained unchanged at 282p.
Countryside’s statement said independent directors continued to unanimously recommend the Cherry family offer, which is backed by financial services provider HBOS.
HBOS will retain 50% of the company if the buy-out is successful, with the Cherry family holding the remaining half.
Countryside’s pre-tax profit fell 55% to £16.1m for the year to 30 September 2004.