July 20, 2012 / 6:14 AM / in 6 years

Canadian pension fund Teachers' to buy UK's Goals Soccer

TORONTO (Reuters) - Goals Soccer Centres Plc (GOAL.L), which runs 5-a-side football centres across the United Kingdom, accepted a 73.1 million pound ($115 million) buyout offer from one of Canada’s largest pension funds on Friday.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan — better known simply as Teachers’ — said on Friday that Goals’ board of directors had agreed to unanimously recommend its all-cash offer to the company’s shareholders.

Teachers’ will pay 144 pence per share for Goals, according to a statement from the British company. The offer represents a premium of 6.7 percent to Goals’ Thursday closing price.

Goals shares were up about 9.26 percent at 146 pence a share at 0733 GMT on Friday on the London Stock Exchange, indicating that investors were expecting a higher offer.

Earlier this month, Goals confirmed that private equity firm Patron Capital, owner of British five-a-side football company Powerleague, had expressed an interest in acquiring Goals.

On Friday, Patron said it was still considering its options regarding an offer for Goals and urged the company’s shareholders to not take any action on the Teachers’ bid.

Teachers’, which is acquiring Goals through its private equity arm Teachers’ Private Capital (TPC), said the deal requires, among other things, the backing of shareholders, holding at least 75 percent of the company’s shares.

Some of Goals’ top shareholders include the company’s co-founder Keith Rogers and investment funds Aviva Investors, Hargreave Hale and Hermes Fund Managers.

Teachers’ had first approached Goals with a with a preliminary bid in April.

Goals owns and operates 43 outdoor five-a-side football centres in the United Kingdom and one in the United States. Each centre houses several pitches that are made of synthetic grass and are typically floodlit. The company has about 800 employees and reported revenue of about $47.8 million last year.

“We believe that this will be a win-win for investors, employees and the thousands of players who enjoy using Goals’ facilities,” said TPC’s European head Jo Taylor in a statement.

With roughly C$117 billion ($114 billion) in net assets, Teachers’ is the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada.

It invests and administers the pensions of about 300,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.

TPC manages a global portfolio valued at about C$12 billion. Teachers’ private equity investments over the last two decades have achieved an average annualized return of close to 20 percent.

Teachers’ and Canadian peers like Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), and Caisse de depot et placement have been among the world’s most active dealmakers in recent years, making major bets both in Canada and overseas. The investments have focused largely around real estate, natural resources and infrastructure projects.

“We are excited at the growth plans for the future,” said TPC’s Taylor. “Our aim is to cement Goals’ position as the UK’s premier five-a-side operator and help the business to achieve its full potential.”

($1 = 0.6366 British pounds)

Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Kim Coghill, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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