Wolves at the Crossroads

In the week that Crossroads returns to our TV screens, another Midlands-based "soap opera" still continues to grip us û the Wolves saga.

Last week the Wolverhampton & Dudley board set an April 5 deadline for takeover bids û in an attempt to flush out potential bidder Robert Breare and to nudge the mooted buy-out bid from its existing management team.

There is speculation that Breare may ignore the move and continue to wait. What happens then?

Advisers Rothschild & Sons have been unable to attract any outside interest in the UK's largest regional brewer, six months after entrepreneur Breare, in conjunction with venture capitalist Botts & Co, offered an indicative bid of 500p a share.

For investors the question is whether to buy or sell shares. Some newspapers have advised a 'buy' expecting a real bid to emerge, while other observers have suggested that shares could now be dumped if there is no bid movement before April 5.

Casanove & Co has already announced Friday that it had dumped a client's holding of 25,000 shares into the market at 440p each. Recent reports that efforts to fund the mooted management buyout have failed led to a number of shareholders already bailing out.

New bidders could emerge if shares then fall to around 300p, which could now happen. Pubmaster is rumoured to be interested in making a solo move, despite being lined up by the management buy-out team to take on the tenanted estate if that bid eventually won. Pubmaster may not fancy the chances of the mbo at the moment.

If no satisfactory bid materialises, then W&D management will be forced to use a strategy announced at the annual general meeting late last year to rationalise the company.

Who knows what the final outcome will be? A piecemeal sale now looks an attractive alternative? To find out tune in next weekàand probably for a few weeks more after that.

• The booming coffee shop sector may face long-term decline after the next couple of years, according to a report by Mintel published last week.

Mintel cites increasing competition from sandwich shops, department stores and pubs and declining coffee consumption in the 15-24 age group. Young people are choosing bottled water and juice products instead.

The problem with this contention is that it assumes adults keep their tastes and preferences

as they grow older. That is sometimes the case, but often not. If it was the wine business , for example, would be in decline, not growing. The trickiest thing for this industry is calling which tastes will stick and which are

transcient .



believes that juice bars may be the latest craze to hit the UK from the States. Now hold on. I thought juice bars were already with us, and taking a bit of a pasting? So is Mintel missing some thing or am I?