France's Fnac sweetens Darty bid to beat out Conforama
French retail giant Fnac improved its bid for Darty Thursday, taking the takeover battle against Conforama for control of the electronics and white goods chain into a new round.
The move comes a month after Darty's board backed a rival bid by Conforoma, which is owned by South Africa's Steinhoff.
Fnac is now bidding 145 British pence in cash per Darty share, valuing the target at £779 million ($1.1 billion, 990 million euros).
This is vastly higher than Fnac's initial £558 million bid, and also ahead of the £742 million that Conforama is bringing to the table after raising its own bid by 10 percent on Wednesday.
Fnac said that it has firm commitments from two investment funds to sell it 22 percent of Darty's shares.
Conforama already owns 19.5 percent in Darty which it bought from a group of investors.
With its latest move, Fnac has taken the lead in the takeover contest in purely financial terms.
But Darty shareholders also have a strategic decision to make. A tie-up with Fnac would strengthen the company's electronics business, whereas an alliance with Conforoma would create "a leading French household goods retailer", Conforama said.
Conforama's all-cash bid announced last month threw a spanner in the works for retailer Fnac, whose core business is books, music and electronics sales, and which had hoped to take over Darty in an agreed bid.
The board of Darty, which is listed on the London stock exchange, threw its weight behind the Conforama bid, unanimously recommending that shareholders sell their shares to Conforama.
Fnac now hopes that Darty's leadership will shift allegiances again. Darty's board has left the door open to such an outcome, saying last month that it would reconsider if there was a better offer, "both in financial terms and regarding the certainty of its execution".
On Thursday, Darty said in a short statement that it would examine the new Fnac bid as well as the revised Conforma offer and "provide further advice to Darty shareholders in due course".
Darty shares soared in London following the latest twist in the takeover fight, trading 13.5 percent higher at £149.25.
© 2016 AFP