France's Fnac ups bid for Darty

25th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

France-based books and electronics retailer Fnac on Monday made a third bid for control of one of Europe's leading electrical goods chains, Darty.

Fnac is battling Conforama, owned by acquisitive South African retailer Steinhoff, for London-listed Darty and said it was lifting its latest bid to 170 pence per share.

Exceeding Conforama's latest bid made last Thursday of 160 pence that would value Darty, a French market leader on white goods with some 400 outlets but not well known internationally, at 1.16 billion euros ($1.3 billion).

Fnac, which is seeking to expand internationally, issued two statements in quick succession in saying it had lifted its capital stake in Darty first to 9.2 percent, then 17.7 percent. The chain invited Darty shareholders to bite on their 170 price offer and indicated it would not raise the stakes still further.

Fnac added its financial advisors, Rothschild, "consider its available resources sufficient to carry out the totality" of the proposed deal.

The chain recently obtained a 950 million euro line of bank financing and can also count on the support of the Vivendi group, which took a 15 percent stake in Fnac worth 159 million euros.

Conforama promptly said it was "studying the situation" and urged Darty shareholders not to act in haste.

Thursday had seen a volley of bids and counter bids -- five on the day which pushed Darty's share price up by almost a quarter as both would-be suitors jostle for advantage in the battle to retain market share in a tough but rising sector inhabited by the likes of US behemoth Amazon and CDiscount of France.

Steinhoff, which acquired French furniture Conforama in 2011, said Friday that it has a 20.4 percent stake in Darty prior to any other move it now may make in response to Fnac's latest gambit.

Fnac first bid last year and thought it had a deal at 116 pence per share before Steinhoff topped it with an initial bid of 125 pence, said it now can speak for 39.8 percent of the total of Darty shares either through ones bought or through promises of support for its offer.

Darty's board said it would study the latest offer before making any recommendations to shareholders.

By mid-afternoon in European trading Monday, Darty shares were up 4.9 percent at 171 pence in London -- compared with 131.5 pence at Wednesday's close -- while Fnac was off 0.9 percent at 54.01 euros in Paris and Steinhoff was unchanged at 5.23 in Frankfurt.

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© 2016 AFP

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