Australia's David Jones says unknown UK private equity firm makes $1.7 billion bid

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:16am EDT

A customer walks past a signage for a David Jones store in central Sydney in this June 30, 2009 file photo. David Jones on June 29, 2012 said it has been approached by a UK-based entity interested in taking over Australia's No.2 department store chain, sending its shares up 19 percent. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/Files

A customer walks past a signage for a David Jones store in central Sydney in this June 30, 2009 file photo. David Jones on June 29, 2012 said it has been approached by a UK-based entity interested in taking over Australia's No.2 department store chain, sending its shares up 19 percent.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel Munoz/Files

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SYDNEY/MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's No.2 department store chain David Jones DJS.AX said on Friday it had received an unsolicited $1.65 billion bid from a consortium led by Britain's EB Private Equity - a firm it did not know much about and was unknown to many market players.

According to its website, EB Private Equity is a real estate investor that counts retail properties among its strategic interests. The website lists no telephone number and carries only basic information about its strategy.

David Jones said it did not have sufficient information to evaluate EB Private Equity's offer, which represents a 38 percent premium to the stock's closing price on Thursday.

"No details of EBPE's financial capacity, its management, or any of the terms of the residual equity have been made available. No further details in relation to the proposal have been provided," David Jones said in a statement.

The bid values shares in David Jones at A$3.12 apiece. The stock finished at A$2.59, 15 percent higher than Thursday's close but far less than the offer price, reflecting the questions in the market about EB Private Equity.

"It's just very, it is very mysterious," Morningstar retail analyst James Cooper told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"There is no clear indication of...whether it is actually an offer or not," he said.

David Jones has been seen as a potentially attractive takeover target, primarily for its property portfolio worth up to A$700 million ($700 million) that includes flagship stores in the heart of Sydney and Melbourne.

($1 = 0.9976 Australian dollars)

(Editing by Richard Pullin and Edwina Gibbs)

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