UK sponsor Patron Capital walks away from Goals Soccer Centres deal

British private equity fund Patron Capital Partners, controlling soccer centres operator Powerleague Group Ltd, said on Wednesday it had decided not to make a takeover offer for Goals Soccer Centres plc (LON:GOAL).

Patron, which on 20 July said it was still considering a potential offer for Goals, did not elaborate on its decision to walk away.

Goal’s board accepted that day a GBP1.44 (USD2.24/EUR1.81) a share takeover offer from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, valuing the target at GBP73.1m, the two companies have said.

Teachers’, which first approached Goals in April, offered to buy the UK outdoor soccer centres operator for a premium of 34% to its closing price on 30 March 2012.
Through its private equity arm Teachers’ Private Capital (TPC), the Canadian fund plans to support Goals in achieving its full potential and strengthen its position as the country’s premier five-a-side operator, TPC’s vice president Jo Taylor said in an earlier comment.

Goals’ managers, which took over the firm in 2000, see this deal as an important step in their efforts to expand the firm’s scale, geography and capability, managing director Keith Rogers has said.

The target company runs 43 outdoor five-a-side football centres in the UK and one in the US. It has more than 100,000 visitors to its locations weekly and employs some 800. Last year, Goals posted revenues of GBP30.4m.

UK water utility Severn Trent seeks buyers its analytical business

British water and sewerage group Severn Trent Plc (LON:SVT) announced on Wednesday it had hired Rothschild to help the company dispose of its analytical services business.

Severn Trent said it decided to sell this operation as it had, over recent months, become a smaller entity with a predominantly commercial-customer focus. Through the sale, the company would also address several commitments it had made to England and Wales’ Water Services Regulation Authority, or Ofwat, with regard to the pricing of certain contracts at the analytical services business. The company did not provide any further details concerning the planned sale process.

Severn Trent Analytical Services, which is the trading name for Severn Trent Laboratories Limited, offers potable, wastewater and contaminated land testing services to British commercial and utility clients. Its business contributes some 1.5% of the group’s overall revenue.

The group itself consists of two main segments, the first of which controls the regulated water utility in Severn Trent Water Limited (STWL). This company delivers water and wastewater services to some 4.2m households and businesses in England and Wales. The other division, namely Severn Trent Services (STS), offers water and wastewater treatment and operating services to utilities, municipalities and commercial clients worldwide.

For the fiscal year to 31 March 2012, Severn Trent booked an underlying profit before interest tax and exceptional items of GBP504.2m (USD785.6m) on a total turnover of nearly GBP1.8bn.

Ireland’s DCC agrees to acquire BP’s UK liquefied gas operation

Irish sales, marketing, distribution and business support services provider DCC Plc (ISE:DCC) announced on Wednesday it had agreed to buy the British liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) distribution operations of BP Plc (LON:BP) for EUR51.3m (USD63.5m).

The transaction excludes BP’s automotive LPG business, which will be transferred to the company’s UK fuels value chain, BP said separately. Its chief operating officer Tufan Erginbilgic believes that DCC has the ability to build on the acquired business and portfolio.

The move follows BP’s announcement in February of its intention to divest its LPG bottles and tank-filling activities along with some of its wholesale LPG operations in the UK, Portugal, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, China and South Africa.

The acquisition will strengthen DCC’s position as the leading oil and LPG sales, marketing and distribution business in the UK, its chief executive Tommy Breen said. The buyer will satisfy the cash-and-debt free purchase price in cash at completion, which is scheduled for the end of September 2012.

BP’s British LPG activities deliver about 87,000 tonnes of bulk and cylinder LPG on an annual basis to a broad range of industrial, commercial and domestic clients. The business operates from a network of 13 sites across the UK and has a headcount of 116 and a fleet of 62 delivery vehicles. Its net tangible operating assets amounted to some EUR38m at the end of 2011.

DCC noted that the footprint of this business complements its existing LPG unit in the UK, called Flogas.

Australian horse racing stained by money laundering and race fixing — report

Much has changed since the first horses arrived in Australia, aboard a female convict ship, in January 1788. Today, Australians are among the most enthusiastic gamblers on horse racing in the world, spending £9.5bn in 2011.

But a joint TV and newspaper investigation claims criminal gangs are fixing races and using the ‘sport of kings’ to launder drug money. Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme teamed up with newspaper The Age to reveal a dark and even murderous side to the country’s gambling obsession.

‘Everyone loves a punt, including cashed-up criminals,’ said Four Corners presenter Kerry O’Brien.

And while allegations of criminality in the industry are not new, authorities have been slow to act in safeguarding an industry worth billions.

Inside Mail focuses on the racing industry in the state of Victoria. Best known in the UK as the home of Neighbours, Victoria and its capital Melbourne are notorious for gang warfare and crime.

Following the February 2011 murder of ‘colourful’ racing figure Les Samba in a well-heeled Melbourne suburb, police investigations started to pick away at horse racing’s criminal links. They found that despite a damning report and state government promises of tough action to stamp out corruption, the Sport of Kings still wears its carapace of slime.

Australian gangland figure Tony Mokbel, currently serving 30 years in prison for drug-related offences, is at the heart of the investigation. It is alleged that Mokbel paid tens of thousands of dollars to leading jockeys in exchange for tips.

‘If he’s got a pocketful of drug money,’ says reporter Nick McKenzie, ‘he’s got a better chance of getting an answer he wants to hear.’

Although jockeys are prohibited from passing on information, a handful of them are alleged to be manipulating races.

Beyond making a quick buck from race fixing, the investigation also alleges that some of Australia’s most notorious criminals are using racing to clean drug money. Four Corners claims Mokbel and his ‘Tracksuit Gang’ of goons cleaned up to £55m to funnel through luxury cars, homes and fillies by using others to place bets on his behalf, and by breaking down bets to avoid detection by Australia’s anti-money laundering agency.

Racing stewards, suspecting something was amiss, made repeated calls for help from Victoria’s police. Yet the authorities declined to investigate.

Despite a 2008 report confirming that ‘criminal activity in the racing sport is rampant’, not one of the bookmakers, trainers or jockeys alleged by the report to have ‘had improper associations with known criminals’ has faced serious repercussions over their dealings with Mokbel.

Jockeys, bookmakers and trainers are tightlipped and none would be interviewed for the documentary.

It was only when Victoria became mired in a dangerous tit-for-tat gangland killing spree that Mokbel and his links to thoroughbred racing corruption began to interest the police. But the response was slow and, Four Corners alleges, Australian authorities are yet to prove they can combat corruption in sport.

And with online betting booming, the investigation predicts that that criminals seeking to make money from the racing industry are far from flogging a dead horse.

Watch Four Corners’ ‘Inside Mail’ investigation here.

Written by   for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism


US-based Cala aims for Serie A with Calcio Lecco acquisition

US development-stage company Cala Corporation (PINK:CCAA) has taken control of Calcio Lecco 1912 SpA, the entity behind the eponymous Italian football club.

Cala did not say how much it had paid to acquire 79% of the club’s outstanding shares.

As its name indicates, Calcio Lecco was established in 1912 and used to rank among the major Italian clubs. However, ownership and management in the past two decades have been in the hands of amateur operators and Calcio Lecco has slipped into the fourth division of the Italian football league. Cala aims to restore the former glory of the club, bringing it back into the ranks of Serie A, Italy’s Premier League.

The US company is convinced this can be achieved with the right management and Calcio Lecco can win its promotion into the elite division. Being among the top 20 gives an Italian football club the right to share into TV royalty income amounting to some USD1bn (EUR806m).

Cala also pointed out that there was huge football demand on a global scale and TV royalties continue to go up every year. By way of an example, the company cited the English Premier League, where royalties for the coming year have surged to GBP3.3bn from GBP1.2bn.

Cala said that its long-term plans included the construction of a world-class stadium. The facility would be next to shopping malls, hotels, hospitals, a college, a premium office building, a convention centre and unlimited parking space.