Freeport in play as bidders circle

Private equity firm GI Partners is thought to be among those approaching the European factory outlet center developer.

Freeport, the developer of European factory outlet centers, has confirmed it has received takeover approaches.

Private equity firm GI Partners is understood to be among the parties that have tabled indicative proposals.

A number of pure property investors including Kenmore are also thought to be interested.

Confirmation was made on the London Stock Exchange this morning of “very early stage” discussions after a report in The Times newspaper, sending Freeport’s shares up 9 percent. The company’s market capitalization now stands at £167 million ($317 million;€247 million).

In its statement to the stock exchange, the company said: “The board of Freeport notes recent speculation and confirms that it has received very preliminary approaches regarding a possible offer for the Company. Discussions are at a very early stage and there can be no certainty that they will lead to an offer being made for the Company.”

News of the takeover talks come just days after Freeport admitted in a trading update to shareholders that it had cut the valuation of its outlet centers by 12.5 percent, including its projects at Alcochete in Portugal and the Excalibur center in the Czech Republic.

The company is also in the midst of a legal battle with its founder Sean Collidge who left the company in March after 30 percent shareholder Laxey Partners demanded a boardroom shake up.

Collidge, who resigned on March 31 amidst accusations of financial impropriety, is counter-suing the company.

In its statement today Freeport added that its nominations committee is still searching for a chief executive but hopes to make an appointment “shortly.”

GI Partners declined to comment. The firm is run by Rick Magnuson, a former deputy partner of Nomura’s Principal Finance Group in London and current chairman of Digital Realty Trust.