New in brief

• US private equity giant Blackstone group announced late Tuesday that it is buying the Hilton Hotels Corporation for about US$26bn in cash. Blackstone is offering to purchase all of Hilton’s outstanding common stock for US$47.50 a share, a 40% premium over Monday’s closing stock price. The deal is expected to complete during the fourth quarter of this year, subject to Hilton’s shareholders approving the deal. Blackstone currently owns more than 100,000 hotel rooms in the US and Europe, ranging from limited service properties such as La Quinta Inns and Suites to LXR Luxury Resorts and Hotels.

• Property entrepreneur Robert Tchenguiz has doubled his stake in UK supermarket J Sainsbury to 11% from 5%. It has been reported that he raised his stake in the supermarket chain amid mounting speculation that Delta Two, the Qatari royal investment vehicle which recently bought a 25% stake in the company, could launch a bid for the company. If the Qatari’s increase their stake beyond 29.9% they would have to mount a full takeover bid.

• French business daily Les Echos has scheduled an extraordinary works council on 3 July. The meeting will deal with the proposed editorial independence of the daily, as exclusive talks between owner Pearson and would-be buyer LVMH are still proceeding. Les Echos chairman David Bell will also meet with journalists’ representatives, which are not seating at the works council.

West Coast Capital, a private equity firm headed by Sir Tom Hunter, has upped his staked in Dobbies Garden Centres, just as supermarket chain Tesco lowered the level of acceptances required for its bid for the garden centre chain. Hunter’s West Coast Capital yesterday acquired more than 400,000 shares in Dobbies at 1,845p per share, taking his stake to 25.57% in what is believed to have been an attempt to block Tesco’s 1,500p per share bid, which totals £156m (US$310.5m).The stake building would have made it impossible for Tesco to have achieved the 75% acceptance level required in its initial offer. However, Tesco yesterday moved to overcome the hurdle by cutting the acceptance level to 50%. Analysts were today expecting a revised, increased offer from Tesco matching or trumping the 1,845p per share price paid by West Coast Capital.

• Buyout group CVC Capital Partners has lined up covenant-lite debt for its planned €12.8bn (US$17.35bn) leveraged buyout of Franco-Spanish tobacco company Altadis, despite rising investor aversion to such financing arrangements. CVC and rival Imperial Tobacco are expected to make competing offers for Altadis this week.CVC’s senior debt is set to be covenant-lite, dispensing with the operating performance conditions banks usually attach to corporate debt, the FT said. The only covenant will cover the ratio of debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. So-called cov-lite loans have sparked concerns from rating agencies, fuelling nervousness in debt markets, reports claimed.