Piedmont hits out at M&B’s sluggish sales

JOE Lewis yesterday signalled he will press ahead with a low-ball takeover offer for pub chain Mitchells & Butlers, after his investment vehicle Piedmont branded the group’s results “disappointing”.

“It is a very disappointing score card for all shareholders and we are seriously considering our options,” said a spokesperson for Piedmont owner Joe Lewis on yesterday’s trading update.

Like-for-like sales at M&B increased 0.5 per cent in the nine weeks to 17 September, slowing down from 2.7 per cent for the year as a whole.

Piedmont’s statement follows Monday’s disclosure by shareholders Elpida and Smoothfield that they are acting in agreement with regards to any potential bid for M&B, declaring a 24.2 per cent joint holding.

If Elpida and Smoothfield – owned by the Irish tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier and by their racing associate Derrick Smith respectively – buy shares to take their holdings through the 30 per cent threshold, the move will trigger a mandatory bid. It remains unclear whether Lewis is planning to join forces with the Irish concert party to support his 22.8 per cent interest in the company.

Jeremy Blood, interim chief of M&B, maintained the group’s “robust” performance was broadly in line with the slowdown in consumer confidence he announced in July. “We have enjoyed 34 quarters of like-for-like growth and the business should be valued on that basis,” he told City A.M.