Pendragon shareholder Hedin Group in £400m raid on car dealership giant | UK News

One of Pendragon’s biggest shareholders has been thwarted in a £400million raid on the London-listed car dealership giant.

Sky News can reveal that the Hedin Group, which operates more than 200 vehicle showrooms in Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland through its subsidiary Hedin Bil, lodged a secret bid for 28p several weeks ago by action for Pendragon.

The approach was not disclosed to Pendragon investors and was reportedly rejected by the company’s board, chaired by Ian Filby.

A bid of 28p a share would value Pendragon at around £400m.

This weekend it was suggested that the Hedin Group – led by Anders Hedin – were considering returning with a new offer.

Hedin, who owns around 25% of Pendragon, has been critical of his board of directors of late, including last year when he called a bonus payment to chief executive Bill Berman “out of tune”.

Like many of its rivals, Pendragon has received tens of millions of pounds in furlough payments from the government during the pandemic – money which The Times last month said would not be refunded, despite the prospect of a return to exceptional profits.

Pendragon, which is due to announce its 2021 results on the stock market next week, has seen its shares rebound 25% over the past 12 months.

The company operates over 150 dealerships across the UK under the Evans Halshaw, Stratstone and CarStore brands.

Hedin Group’s interest in a takeover of its British rival raises the intriguing prospect of a return to Pendragon for company founder Trevor Finn, who was ousted in 2019.

Mr. Finn joined Hedin’s board of directors last year.

The bid approach for Pendragon comes at a time of significant change in the way new and used cars are sold, and frenetic corporate activity among those selling them.

In January, Constellation Automotive, the private group behind WeBuyAnyCar and Cinch, bought nearly 20% of the Lookers-listed dealership group.

The move came shortly after Constellation, which has a multi-billion pound valuation, agreed to a £200 million takeover of Marshall Motor Group, another physical car dealership.

Pendragon himself attempted to buy out beleaguered rival Lookers during the height of the pandemic, but was rebuffed.

In recent years the industry has focused on using technology to improve the car buying experience, with Cinch and rival New York-listed Cazoo investing tens of millions of pounds in the development of the brand through sports sponsorship agreements.

Sources close to Pendragon said its management team had made “strong early progress” in turning the company around.

It has cut 1,800 jobs since the start of the pandemic and closed 15 stores.

Last December, it relaunched CarStore, its standalone used car brand, with a mix of physical locations and a digital platform.

The company updated its profit forecast in December for the financial year, saying underlying pre-tax profit would be around £80m instead of the previous forecast of around £70m.

At Friday’s closing price of 21.7p, Pendragon had a market capitalization of just over £300m.

Pendragon declined to comment over the weekend, while Hedin Group did not respond to a request for comment.

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