Tchenguiz takes on Blackstone for La Tasca

Property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz is trying to derail The Blackstone Group’s agreed £96 million bid for La Tasca, a UK tapas chain.

Property entrepreneur Robert Tchenguiz has attempted to scuttle The Blackstone Group’s £96 million (€141 million; $189 million) agreed-upon takeover offer for La Tasca, a UK-based Spanish tapas chain, by going public with a higher bid.

R20, Tchenguiz’s investment vehicle, this morning offered £99 million, or 188 pence per share, for La Tasca, trumping Blackstone’s earlier 185 pence per share bid.

Blackstone, which is buying La Tasca through its portfolio company Tragus, owner of Café Rouge and Bella Italia, has already seen its offer accepted by the company’s management. Approximately 25 percent of shareholders have also agreed to the Blackstone bid, including buyout firm Penta Capital Partners, which floated La Tasca at 110p a share in 2005.

Tchenguiz was reportedly furious that Blackstone’s bid was accepted yesterday, despite R20 making a higher all-cash bid. He had been planning to offer 190 pence per share, but has revised the offer downwards as Blackstone will now be entitled to a break-up fee of £1 million if the deal falls through.

The property magnate, who wants to merge La Tasca with his Laurel Pub Company, has now gone public in an attempt to bypass management and woo shareholders directly.

In a statement, Tchenguiz said: “We believe that this offer represents an excellent opportunity for La Tasca shareholders to sell their shares at an attractive cash price and we look forward to working with La Tasca management and employees in the near future.”

The shareholder approvals given to Blackstone will only lapse in the event of a 195 pence per share bid, so Tchenguiz still has his work cut out to rescue the deal.

Blackstone bought Tragus from Legal & General Ventures in December for £267 million. The business, which currently operates about 160 restaurant sites, said all but three or four of La Tasca’s 69 restaurants would continue to operate under the same brand name, with the rest being converted to other Tragus brands.