Expatica news

Vendex KBB in takeover talks

6 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Vendex KBB, which owns department stores De Bijenkorf, Hema and V&D, is in talks with foreign investment companies about a possible takeover, the Dutch retailer said after the close of the Amsterdam AEX stock exchange on Thursday night.

The potential buyers of Vendex are believed to be prepared to pay EUR 1.25 billion, or EUR 14 per Vendex share. The company’s share price on Thursday was EUR 11.41, valuing Vendex at EUR 1 billion, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

Various investment companies have expressed an interest in Vendex in recent months and the retailer has picked out several prospective buyers for further talks. A company press release said the parties were interested in Vendex as a whole and support the company’s present strategy.

Vendex refused to identify the investment companies, but indicated they were “renowned international investment companies”. The potential buyers are currently conducting an accounts investigation to determine the company’s value.

The bookkeeping inquiries are expected to be completed at the end of March, after which an offer and a future strategy plan could be presented to the Vendex board. The company would then decide whether it wished to proceed, but a spokesman said it was too early to predict whether an actual offer would be made.

Vendex has been under pressure for some time, with US investors Guy Wyser-Pratte and K Capital buying up in recent years large quantities of shares and exerting pressure on the Vendex board to restructure the company and sell-off loss-making divisions.

Wyser-Pratte said on Thursday that he was contacted by Vendex KBB to inform him that the company was in talks with “very large” parties. “I am exceptionally pleased,” the investor said.

The potential buyers reportedly approached Vendex of their own accord and the possible takeover could help Vendex protect itself from hostile bids and an eventual company split, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

But the director of the Dutch stockholders association VEB, Peter Paul de Vries, said it was plausible that the US investors had themselves gone in search of potential buyers. He also said that interest in Vendex was not surprising.

De Vries said on a structural basis, Vendex KBB had been insufficiently paying its own way and investment companies would be keen to see if they could make more money out of the company. He said this could be achieved by, for example, splitting the company up.

But a Vendex spokesman said a company split up was not an option. Potential buyers were interested in the company as a whole, inclusive V&D. Selling the loss-making department store was also out of the question, he said.

Besides its large department stores, Vendex also owns hardware chains Formido, Praxis and Brico, fashion stores Claudia Sträter, Hunkemöller and M&S, plus electronic outlets Dixons, Dynabyte, It’s and Modern Electronics.

Vendex has been reporting losses in the past year, with V&D and De Bijenkorf performing badly. Only department store Hema has made an improvement on its 2002 figures. Vendex will present its year-end figures on 18 February.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news