Bid speculation mounts
Blacks Leisure's share price rose again this morning to push the 450p barrier after it was revealed that secretive retail entrepreneur Mike Ashley was on the threshold of making a bid.

Ashley, who owns Sports World International and the landmark Lillywhites store at London's Picadilly Circus, now has a 29.4 per cent shareholding in Blacks - just shy of the level required to trigger a formal bid.

Broker Numis Securities speculated that a bid could be worth as much as 500p a share, valuing the company at£212 million.

However, Seymour Pierce said that it was unlikely any offer would be above 450p a share.

Both emphasised that Ashley has a habit of picking up stakes in rival businesses, such as JD Sports and JJB, but not taking things further and making a takeover approach.

The confirmation of his stakebuilding in Blacks came after the retailer yesterday revealed that pre-tax profit had crumbled to just£100,000 from£6.9 million, with like-for-like sales down 0.5 per cent.

The retailer blamed 'weakness' at its Millets chain and investment in store space and infrastructure.

In morning trading Blacks Leisure was trading at 448p a share.