Printemps sale to Qatari investors seen moving ahead

PARIS, March 26 Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:51pm EDT

PARIS, March 26 (Reuters) - The sale of French department store Printemps to Qatari investors could be a done deal by as early as this summer as the timetable for presenting the deal to its staff is now set, people close to the proposed deal said on Tuesday.

The upmarket department store and tourist shopping hotspot has been the target of a joint bid by Italian businessman Maurizio Borletti allied with Qatari investors, but is also coveted by French retail archrival Galeries Lafayette.

"A first presentation meeting has been set for April 5 and there will be two other meetings on April 19 and on April 25," Bernard Demarcq, Secretary General for the UGICT-CGT trade union told Reuters on Tuesday.

He was speaking after Printemps management met with employee representatives earlier in the day to decide on a timetable to present the offer to staff.

No details on the terms of the offer were provided at the meeting, added Demarcq, who worries about possible job cuts.

Separately, a Borletti spokeswoman in Paris told Reuters that the deal could be sealed "by summer."

Le Printemps is 70 percent owned by Deutsche Bank's real estate investment unit RREEF and 30 percent owned by the Borletti Group, headed by Maurizio Borletti.

A source close to the talks told Reuters last month that RREEF and the Borletti Group were in exclusive talks to sell Printemps to Qatari investors for up to 2 billion euros ($2.57 billion).

Borletti and RREEF bought Printemps in 2006 from French luxury group PPR for 1.1 billion euros.

Printemps now has 16 stores and employs about 4,000. Its 2011-12 turnover rose 13 percent to 1.45 billion euros.

Since the exclusive talks were announced on Feb. 20, not much news has emerged.

Sources close to the talks have hinted it was a "done deal," though the final closing will occur only once Printemps employee representatives and French regulatory authorities have been consulted.

"RREEF retained the offer and no rival offer can be submitted given the exclusive nature of the talks," the Borletti spokeswoman said.

Details on the terms of the deal have been scarce though banking sources said it valued Printemps at 1.8 billion-2.0 billion euros, including debt.

RREEF and Borletti have declined to comment on the terms of the proposed deal.

WILD CARD

Meanwhile, Galeries Lafayette, which tried but failed to buy Printemps in 2006, has not yet given up on its bid.

Galeries Lafayette, whose flagship store in Paris sits next to Le Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann, employs 15,000 people and posted 2011 revenue of 5.6 billion euros.

Last month its chief executive Philippe Houze offered RREEF 1.8 billion euros to buy Printemps, but his offer was ignored.

This month Houze contacted Qatari investors to convince them to link up with Galeries Lafayette and drop their support of Borletti. He has also been lobbying French and Parisian officials to try to rally support behind his bid.

A spokeswoman for Galeries Lafayette on Tuesday declined to comment on Houze's current plans. ($1 = 0.7777 Euro) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Pascale Denis, additional reporting by Kathrin Jones and Alexander Huebner in Frankfurt, Anjuli Davies in London; editing by G Crosse)

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