In brief top news

Georg von Opel, a German car dealership for GM subsidiary Opel, has been the target of a management buyout backed by Deutsche Bank’s London-based holding company and Hans-Ulrich Sachs, an investment vehicle based in Stuttgart and controlled by one of Georg von Opel’s managing directors. They are joining existing managing director and shareholder Gregor von Opel. The total value of the transaction is in excess of €50m based on multiples of turnover. Georg von Opel employs 750 staff and expects to generate a turnover of about €250m in 2005.

  • Woolworths is suffering after failing to attract an acquirer. The struggling UK retailer has published interim results showing increased group losses in the first half of 2005 of £35.9m, around £3m worse than the loss incurred in the same period last year, according to accounts published under the new IFRS system. Sales fell by just under 3% in the first half of the year.

According to CEO Trevor Bish-Jones, the rate of sales decline is falling, with a decline of 1.7% over the past eight weeks compared with a fall of 4.4% earlier in the year. Bish-Jones is relying on a busy Christmas to offset the poor first-half performance. Despite speculation in July of a possible US private equity buyer emerging for the group, shares in Woolworths have remained flat since plummeting in April. The share price dropped dramatically when private equity firm Apax abandoned a 58.2p per share takeover plan that valued Woolworths at around £840m.

  • Drax Group, operator of the UK’s largest coal fired power plant, has rejected a proposed £1.9bn cash offer from a US consortium of Constellation Energy Group and Perry Capital, but has not ruled out a takeover. Measured against the bases of value, deliverability and timeliness, the Drax board has decided that the Constellation indicative proposal “significantly undervalues the company and has no certainty of delivery”.

However, the Drax board states that it “remains committed to delivering shareholder value and to the possibility of this arising through the pursuit of other strategic alternatives to the proposed refinancing and listing”. Advised by Deutsche Bank, Drax is continuing with the refinancing and relisting process, while maintaining a dialogue with Constellation/Perry. Drax is looking for a price of more than £2.3bn.

  • 3i has entered into an agreement to sell Local Press, owner of the Belfast News Letter and Derry Journal, to Johnston Press in a £65m deal. 3i will receive proceeds of £40m, which represents a money multiple of 1.7x and an IRR of 39% on its original investment. The firm completed the MBO of Local Press from Trinity Mirror Group in January 2004.