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UPDATE 2-Corp. Express to open books for Staples bid -paper
(Adds Staples CEO comments, updates shares)
AMSTERDAM, June 4 (Reuters) - Corporate Express CXP.AS will open its books to U.S. office supplies company Staples (SPLS.O), which has made an unsolicited bid for the Dutch office goods wholesaler, a Dutch newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Staples on Tuesday raised its offer to 9.15 euros a share, or 1.7 billion euros ($2.65 billion) in total, on condition that Corporate Express shareholders reject the company's plan to buy privately owned French peer Lyreco.
But Staples has yet to see any detailed figures from Corporate Express, said the U.S. company's Chief Executive Ron Sargent.
"That was news to us. At this point we haven't seen anything," said Sargent, who said he was in Amsterdam until Thursday seeking support from Corporate Express shareholders for his company's offer.
Het Financieele Dagblad reported, citing unnamed sources, that Corporate Express would also likely give a neutral recommendation to its shareholders about the Staples bid.
"Certainly, neutral is better than suggesting that shareholders vote for the Lyreco deal," Sargent said, adding that a recommendation for the Staples offer would of course be preferable.
Corporate Express, which will hold an extraordinary meeting of shareholders on June 18 to discuss the Staples bid and vote on the Lyreco deal, declined to comment, referring to Tuesday's statement.
It said on Tuesday it would carefully review the new bid and make a further announcement in due course, in contrast to its outright rejection of Staples' previous bids.
Analysts said Staples, which cannot raise its offer price again under Dutch regulations, has the best chances of getting Corporate Express shareholders' support because of its bid and because it has lowered the acceptance level to 51 percent from a previous 75 percent.
Holders of about 23.3 percent of Corporate Express, one of the world's largest wholesalers of office products, have committed to accept the offer, Staples said on Tuesday.
Asked whether any other shareholders had signed on, Sargent said: "We hope to talk to additional shareholders today and tomorrow. We're trying to convince shareholders that this is a compelling offer."
Other unnamed shareholders who own about 20 percent of Corporate Express would also support the Staples bid, the paper said.
Shares in Corporate Express were slightly higher after the comments by the Staples CEO, up 0.7 percent at 8.99 euros as of 1220 GMT, compared with a 0.1 percent rise in the morning. Amsterdam's blue-chip index .AEX was down 1.8 percent.
Analysts have said a tie-up between Staples and Corporate Express would make strategic sense and could lead to big savings at a time when both are trying to deal with a slowing U.S. economy.
Corporate Express's plan to buy Lyreco, a deal worth 1.7 billion euros and seen as a defence against Staples' takeover, would increase its margins and revenues and make it less dependent on the U.S. market. (Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger and Reed Stevenson, editing by Will Waterman)
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