Umbro bidder sees silver lining

England’s inability to scrape a draw in Russia on Wednesday night was a disaster for all concerned – the players, the fans, the (imminently-unemployed) manager and, of course, Umbro. Failure to qualify could cut the team kit sponsor’s profits in half next year – so is it a good time to snap up the company on the cheap?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Someone seems to think so. On Thursday Umbro (whose share price had been suspiciously buoyant despite events in Russia) admitted that it had received a takeover approach from an unnamed bidder. So clearly one viewer saw a potential silver lining amid the clouds of Wednesday's disappointing result.

The obvious assumption was that the bidder was Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct, who already holds a 15% stake. Given that his shop finds it much easier to flog over-priced replica shirts when England are appearing in a major tournament, Sports Direct will also lose out in a big way if Russia beat them to the punch, but perhaps Ashley had decided this was too good an opportunity to miss?

However, his people appeared to play down his involvement, leaving Adidas as the other prime suspect. The sportswear group snapped up Reebok last year and some thought it could be looking to bolster its portfolio again.

But judging by today's reports, Nike seems to be the interested party. The US sportswear giant already has a big presence in world football, sponsoring a number of big teams, and has previously outlined an 'aggressive growth strategy' in the sport.

Ironically, Nike also happens to be the sponsors of Russia - are they just trying to rub it in?

Umbro has been staying tight-lipped on the details of the bid, but that didn’t stop the share price jumping by almost 30%, increasing the company’s market value to £223m. Could it be that this takeover battle will develop along the same lines as England’s typical tournament campaigns: over-hyped, and over-burdened by the weight of expectation, early promise eventually gives way to under-achievement and crushing disappointment…?

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