Canadian fund targets Goals transfer deal

SHARES in Goals Soccer Centres leapt 24 per cent yesterday after an approach by a Canadian pension fund triggered hopes of a bidding war for the five-a-side chain.

The stock pared its gains and closed up 16.28 per cent at 125p after the private equity arm of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan made a preliminary approach for the football pitch provider. Analysts said it could lead to a deal worth up to £76.8m.

A series of other private equity firms are expected to look at buying into East Kilbride-based Goals, however, despite its net debt of £53.2m at 31 December.

Paul Hickman at Peel Hunt said: “We would expect other private equity to look at Goals, it is a market leader in a sector that would appear to have good structural growth opportunities.”

Another City analyst told City A.M. that “cash comes cascading through” once five-a-side chains have invested in the roll-out of their sites.

Possible bidders could include Patron Capital, which bought rival football operator Powerleague Group through Patron Sports Leisure, in 2009, as well as Edinburgh-based Dunedin, which took Goals to market in 2004. Both firms declined to comment last night.

Goals said Ontario Teachers would need to announce whether it planned to make an offer by 30 April. The pension fund has C$107.5bn (£67.5bn) in net assets and administers the pensions of 300,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario.

In February Goals posted a 21 percent rise in annual pre-tax profit to £9.2m. It has 42 sites across Britain.