Sainsbury given more time for Home Retail bid after Steinhoff offer - UK
bdlive.co.za - Feb 24th 2016, 11:15
London — British supermarket operator Sainsbury has been given more time to make a firm bid for Argos-owner Home Retail, after a possible higher rival offer from SA’s Steinhoff International emerged on Friday (19 Feb).
Home Retail said on Monday (22 Feb) the Takeover Panel watchdog had extended Tuesday’s deadline (23 Feb) for Sainsbury to formalise its takeover proposal to 18 March, the same date as for Steinhoff to make a firm bid or walk away.
On Friday (19 Feb), Frankfurt-listed Steinhoff, which already has a retail presence in the UK through Bensons Beds and the Harvey’s furniture chain, proposed an all-cash offer of 175p for each Home Retail share.
That was 8.5% higher than Sainsbury’s cash and shares approach, worth 161.3p or a total of £1.3bn when it was made on 2 February, and Home Retail had said it was willing to recommend.
Shares in Home Retail have jumped nearly three quarters since news of a possible bid from Sainsbury emerged on 5 January.
They closed up 13% at 173.4p on Monday as Steinhoff’s announcement on Friday came after the stock market closed.
Sainsbury shares closed down 2.3% at 255.65p, valuing its proposal at about 165p.
Sainsbury CE Mike Coupe wants Argos to accelerate the supermarket’s growth strategy. By creating Britain’s largest general merchandise business, it would be less reliant on a food market showing little growth.
Argos’s sales and delivery network, one of the most advanced in Britain, is also attractive.
Steinhoff’s move had surprised analysts, who had previously said it would be hard for any rival to unlock the £120m of annual savings and benefits Sainsbury identified the deal would deliver in three years.
Mr Coupe has repeatedly said Sainsbury will not overpay for Home Retail. However, walking away would create its own problems.
"Sainsbury’s has effectively questioned the rationale of a ‘standalone food retailer’, and it needed this extra non-food capability to strive," said Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne.
"Pulling away from the deal would leave an important strategic question mark of how they plan to fill that gap." Monteyne expects Sainsbury to match Steinhoff’s proposal but noted any bid above 186p would likely require shareholder approval, adding further complexity.
Steinhoff, which has operations in Britain, continental Europe, Southern Africa, and the Pacific Rim has a market value of about €18bn; more than double that of Sainsbury. It is yet to set out what its strategy for Argos would be, or what cost savings it could achieve.From DFM Publishers (Pty) Ltd
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