BLACKBURN’S billionaire Issa brothers have launched a takeover bid for one of Britain’s biggest coffee shop chains.

The offer by EG Group founders Mohsin and Zuber for Caffe Nero is their latest daring move to expand their business interests.

It follows their success in taking over Asda from US supermarket giant Walmart in a £6.8million deal in October with private equity partner TDR Capital.

The brothers wrote to Caffe Nero over the weekend to propose buying the chain from its founder and controlling shareholder Gerry Ford. 

The move came just hours before the ailing coffee shop chain, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and home working, seeks approval from landlords to slash its rent bill.

Under the EG proposal, Caffe Nero’s landlords would be paid in full for rent arrears as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

However, it is understood the bid has been rejected by Mr Ford and Caffe Nero and that the chain’s creditors will vote on a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) plan aimed to secure better terms from landlords as planned.

The Issa brothers, who grew up in the Brookhouse area of Blackburn, founded Euro-Garages in 2001with a single petrol station in Bury which then grew into the international EG Group petrol forecourt empire.

The bid underlines their growing reputation as successful entrepreneurs whose pursuit of growth has seen them create a business portfolio employing more than 44,000 people across 6,000 sites in Europe, the US and Australia.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s growth boss, said: “The Issa brothers ambitions continue to surprise everybody.

“If this bid is successful it will be another feather in their cap and will contribute to more jobs in Blackburn can only a good thing.

“They are becoming major drivers in the national economy and that can only be good for Blackburn with Darwen.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council Conservative group leader Cllr John Slater said: “This can only be good news.

“They obviously think there is a business case for this. They have a first-class business track record. I wish them well.”

Miranda Barker, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This makes a lot of sense because of their long term partnership with Starbucks. Bringing their coffee option in house makes good business logic. This confirms their status as major players on the international business stage.”

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Lenders to Caffe Nero are expected to play a role in deciding the chain’s future. It employs more than 5,000 people and says it serves 135m customers annually.

EG and Caffe Nero have so far declined to comment.