Australia's David Jones agrees to $2 billion offer from South Africa's Woolworths

SYDNEY Tue Apr 8, 2014 7:58pm EDT

Pedestrians walk past a David Jones department store in central Melbourne September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

Pedestrians walk past a David Jones department store in central Melbourne September 24, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mick Tsikas

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's No.2 department store operator, David Jones Ltd (DJS.AX), said on Wednesday it had agreed to a takeover offer from South Africa's Woolworth Holdings Ltd (WHLJ.J) valuing the company at around A$2.15 billion ($2 billion).

In doing so, it has spurned an offer from bigger rival Myer Holdings Ltd (MYR.AX), which in October 2013 proposed a nil premium all-stock deal that had valued David Jones at A$1.4 billion.

David Jones said it had entered into a scheme of arrangement with Woolworths, a mid to high-end retailer in South Africa, for the A$4 per share bid. That represents a 25 percent premium to its closing price on Tuesday and a 40 percent premium to its close on January30 when the Myer offer was made public.

"All I can say is that it's a surprise and it's a hefty premium," said Morningstar senior equity analyst Tim Montague-Jones.

"I don't think Myer will be able to match that sort of premium, but who knows - it's hard to tell," he said.

David Jones rejected the Myer proposal last year, but had since included it in a number of options under consideration.

David Jones Chairman Gordon Cairns said the board had considered several proposals including remaining a standalone company or merging with Myer but concluded that the Woolworths' deal was in the best interests of shareholders.

The South Africa-based Woolworths also owns 87.9 percent of Australia's clothing and homeware store Country Road Ltd (CTY.AX).

($1 = 1.0712 Australian Dollars)

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast and Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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