Published: December 19, 2010
Prospects of Pontin's takeover dimming, say press reports

National newspaper reports suggest that the prospects for the cash-strapped Pontin's chain of holiday camps is 'darkening' as property bidders descend upon the business with proposals to bulldoze the holiday parks - including the one at Brean - to make way for lucrative residential and commercial developments instead.

The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday (December 19th) that while almost 60 potential buyers had initially expressed interest in buying Pontin's, the administrator KPMG had received only three firm offers ahead of a deadline yesterday.

A handful more belated bids could materialise, including interest from former bosses Graham Parr and Ian Smith.

Bourne Leisure, the owner of rival chain Butlin's, which was initially touted as a buyer, has opted out according to the newspaper.

It adds that an offer has so far failed to materialise from Bhanu Choudhrie, an Indian-born millionaire investor who declared last month that he wanted to buy Pontin's and had ambitious plans for its expansion.

"After conducting our due diligence, we have decided not to make an offer on Pontin's," Choudhrie told The Observer. "However, we will continue to watch proceedings over the next few days with interest."

Serious offers have come from redevelopers who see scope for housing on the land occupied by several of Pontin's five holiday parks. But developers face costly challenges in paying rates on the properties and in providing security to guard sites.

"Most of the interest is to redevelop the sites for housing," an industry source is quoted as saying. "Most are not interested in them as Pontin's camps, although there might be a few sites still viable."

The newspaper says there could yet be an 11th-hour offer from Parr, a former bluecoat turned executive who led a consortium that bought Pontin's for £46m in 2008 before losing control of the business when bank Santander withdrew support. Parr recently attacked Santander's actions, insisting the business remained strong.

Joint administrator David Costley-Wood of KPMG said: "We've had a number of offers for the business and we're prepared for a few more over the weekend. We'll be reviewing the offers on Monday."

Pontin's went into administration in November. The holiday firm was started in 1946 when Fred Pontin opened his first holiday park in Brean.

Hundreds of people who are employed at the Brean Sands site have been watching the developments nervously in recent weeks.

Pictured are TV news crews at the entrance to Pontin's in Brean last month

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