ALE is for Sale: Hedley

28 April, 2008 by TheShout

By Ian Neubauer

Hedley Leisure and Gaming Property Fund (HLG) has alluded it is planning to sell its 23 per cent stake in pub owner ALE Property in response to widespread reports in this morning’s newspapers.

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“As HLG previously announced on 19 March, 2008, HLG has received approaches from several independent parties which had indicated interest in acquiring HLG or part or all of its assets,” HLG chairman Colin Henson said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

He added that any proposed transaction “will take some time” as the company will need to seek “consent from its financiers before such a transaction could be finalised”.

The statement skirted around the sale of HLG’s $70 million stake in ALE, which is considered the most sought-after asset in HLG’s $1.2 billion pub portfolio.

Reports of the sell-off were discounted as speculation by rumoured buyer Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH), which in 2003 signed a 25-year lease on ALE’s portfolio of 105 pubs. “It is purely speculative,” said a spokesperson for Woolworths, which owns a 75 per cent stake in ALH.

However, if this speculation proves true it could bear influence on a three-year legal dispute between ALE and ALH over the development rights to land attached to 20 ALE hotels.

In February, ALH lost its patience and launched a Supreme Court action for the development rights of 5.8 acres of land attached to Melbourne’s Vale Hotel in a case that is considered a litmus test on ALH’s claims on land attached to the other 19 hotels.

HLG shares have lost and regained 5 per cent in value over the past fortnight, steadying at 89 cents by midday.  

ALE shares have risen steadily over the last week and climbed nearly 9 per cent this morning to reach $3.19 by midday.
     
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