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|loafofbread: MARKET REPORT: Pinewood drama takes a new twist
By Geoff Foster
Last updated at 12:17 AM on 02nd December 2009
Some people might say that activist fund Crystal Amber deserves an Oscar for building up a strategic stake in Pinewood Shepperton, whose film studios in Buckinghamshire were used for the production of Slumdog Millionaire, Harry Potter and various James Bond and Carry On film classics.
But the shrewd investor surely topped up their shareholding to 12.34pc, or 5.4m shares, believing the real action could be about to start.
Pinewood, 4p lower at 123p, has a meagre market capitalisation of £57.5m, net debt of around £44m and net assets per share of 154p. It has been a serious underperformer for too long and other shareholders are known to be getting pretty restless.
Chairman Michael Grade and the board recently received a kick in the teeth when South Bucks District Council rejected 'Project Pinewood', its ambitious plan to expand Pinewood Studios, on the grounds that it comprised development in green belt.
Rumours now suggest that the move by Crystal Amber (unchanged at 112p) could be a precursor to Peel Holdings, the property giant owned by billionaire John Whittaker, using its 26pc shareholding at last as a launch pad to bid for Pinewood at a level well in excess of the current share price.
Whittaker owns Mersey Docks, the Manchester Ship Canal and the John Lennon Liverpool Airport and has always had his eye on Pinewood's vast property assets.
With the share price on its knees and property prices gradually moving north, it could be a perfect time for him to pounce, leaving Crystal Amber with yet another tasty turn on its investment.|
|m4m: And the winner is....
If the London Stock Exchange handed out oscars for outstanding share price performance over the festive period, one would have to go to Pinewood Shepperton. Shares of the group, which houses the famous Pinewood and Teddington film studios, touched 285p and closed 17¼p better at 280p, taking its gain over the Christmas and New Year period to a stonking 27%. Demand has been relatively small but persistent enough to push the stock to a new peak as investors took the view that its vast and rich property assets in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, make it a strong candidate for conversion to a more tax efficient Real Estate Investment Trust. Rumours yesterday suggested that a cashrich private equity player could soon launch a bid for Pinewood and then convert it into a REIT. There was also vague gossip that chairman and 1.35% shareholder Michael Grade has had a change of heart and decided to stand down from Pinewood now that he has taken over the hot seat at ITV, ½p easier at 106½p. When Grade was at the BBC he faced accusations of a conflict of interest because he owned shares in Pinewood - which counted the Corporation among its customers. Grade could definitely walk as long as a suitable 'heavyweight' replacement is found. Pinewood Shepperton has seen group profits rise on the back of successful 2006 productions of the James Bond flick, Casino Royale and Robert de Niro's Stardust. There is a good pipeline of films coming through for 2007 but the shares' current popularity is all about property. The group has 41 stages, including six digital TV studios, preview theatres, backlots, gardens and woodland for outdoor shooting and one of Europe's largest exterior water tanks.|
Pinewood Shepperton share price data is direct from the London Stock Exchange