From Hunter to hunted?

So Sir Tom Hunter has upped his stake in the Scotland-based Dobbies Garden Centres in a bid to scupper Tesco's takeover of the chain. That's good news for all fans of healthy competition, and the idea that he's on his way to a 25% blocking stake will surely be greeted by a hail of ‘good on him' and ‘about time too' from consumer groups and small retailers who repeatedly moan about Tesco's unchallenged ownership of the nation's tills.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
But talk about chucking yourself in front of a speeding juggernaut. After all, this is Tesco we're talking about, and the supermarket giant isn't exactly wet behind the ears when it comes to bidding wars. Boss Sir Terry Leahy has expressed his desire to expand into gardening, describing it as 'an attractive sector for Tesco to get into'. Leahy is famously mild-mannered, but he's also used to getting what he wants. We can't imagine he's simply going to stop barking and roll over to let Sir Tom tickle his tummy.

There is, of course, an outside chance that Hunter can pull it off. Leahy is sure to be focused right now on Tesco's imminent and highly lucrative expansion into the US, and may well consider the issue of a £228m garden centre to be too trifling to worry about. That said, Tesco are paying a comparatively high price for the chain, equivalent to more than twice Dobbies' annual turnover, which suggests Leahy is serious. And if he does decide to train his sights on Hunter, Sir Tom could be in for a rude awakening.

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