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Sports Direct given deadline for Blacks bid

CLOTHING retailer Sports Direct must bid for Blacks Leisure by 1 April or walk away, the takeover watchdog has ruled, setting a timetable for the conclusion of a long-running and bitter takeover battle.

Blacks said it had rejected a £39m approach from the group controlled by Newcastle United soccer club boss Mike Ashley. The Takeover Panel responded by setting the deadline for Sports Direct to announce a firm intention to make an offer, or say it will not bid.

Sports Direct, which owns 28.5 per cent of Blacks, had said earlier this month it would block plans by the struggling outdoor goods group for a £22m fundraising before indicating it was mulling a cash offer.

Blacks said it still planned to seek new funds as it rejected an indicative offer of 62p per share in cash, representing a premium of 3.3 per cent to its closing mid-market price on the day before receipt of the offer.

This would value the company at around £39.5m.

Blacks said it rejected the offer as being wholly inadequate and some analysts said they thought Sports Direct would most likely walk away, leaving Blacks free to pursue its fundraising plans.