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By ESPN Staff

Newcastle deny foreign takeover talk

Newcastle today denied being the subject of a £227million takeover amid speculation that another foreign investor had snapped up a Barclays Premiership club.

A newspaper report this morning claimed US hedge fund Polygon, which has held a long-term interest in the Magpies, had teamed up with the United Bank of Switzerland to launch a successful bid.

However, the club moved quickly to insist they had neither received nor accepted any offer, and that the financial process of due diligence - the precursor to any offer - is not under way.

In a statement released to the Stock Exchange, Newcastle said: ``The board wishes to clarify that it has not accepted any proposals for the company from any party nor is any due diligence being conducted on the company.

``Therefore there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer would be made.

``A further statement will be made as appropriate.''

The development is the latest in a long-running saga which has seen both Polygon and the Jersey-based Belgravia group linked with a takeover at St James' Park.

Club shares closed at a year's high of 75.5 pence, and were still trading at 75p this morning, valuing the club at £99.83million. The reported offer of 93p a share would represent a significant dividend for shareholders.

It was also claimed that the prospective owners would take on debts of £87million and hand manager Glenn Roeder a £20million transfer kitty.

However, while Newcastle's denial does not rule out an offer materialising in the future from either Polygon and UBS or Belgravia, the feeling on Tyneside remains that current chairman and major shareholder Freddy Shepherd has little intention of selling his stake.

The club have confirmed that former chairman Sir John Hall, who controls a 28.8% stake with his son Douglas holding a further 13%, has been in talks with a series of parties in recent months with a view to selling up.

However, no offer has been forthcoming despite repeated claims that a significant move was imminent.

But among all the rumours, the one constant has been Shepherd's apparent unwillingness to relinquish control of the club at which he took over the helm from Hall Senior in December 1997.

Shepherd has a holding amounting to almost 29%, just short of the point at which he would have to make an offer for the remaining shares.

Belgravia have made no secret of their intention to secure total control, and that seems unlikely as long as the chairman remains steadfast in his belief he is the man to lead the club forward.

He is currently planning for the January transfer window after this week praising manager Glenn Roeder for the way he has coped with an unprecedented injury crisis.