Belgravia Group play down Newcastle bid reports

December 8, 2006

The Belgravia Group have played down reports claiming a takeover bid for Newcastle is imminent.

The Jersey-based investment group are nearing the end of the process of due diligence, under which they are assessing the club's financial position before deciding whether to table an offer.

However, amid speculation that an offer of around £150million could be made soon, a spokesman for the group said: 'We have confirmed we are still in talks. It will happen when it happens.'

Belgravia have been in talks with the club's major shareholders for months, in an effort to pave the way for a complete takeover.

Former chairman Sir John Hall and his son Douglas control hold more than 40% of shares, with current supremo Freddy Shepherd owning a further 28%-plus.

Shepherd recently challenged Belgravia to put their money on the table, but has shown little sign of being ready to relinquish control.

The potential buyers suggested last week they would like to push through a deal before the January transfer window closes.

But even if an offer came in the next 24 hours, the legal process which would be triggered would make that target difficult.

Newcastle have largely avoided commenting on the matter to date - Stock Exchange rules dictate they must announce any significant development through the official channels.

However, Shepherd has grown increasingly weary following reports predicting huge investment in the playing squad should Belgravia be successful.

The club is currently valued at around £90million, but Newcastle also have significant debts after investing heavily in both the redevelopment of St James' Park and the squad in recent years.

Newcastle reported a £12million loss in their most recent figures, although a proportion of that was due to activities in the transfer market and reduced revenue last season because of missing out on European football.