* Raises offer price to $19/shr from $18.20/shr
* Deal now valued at about $606 mln, excluding debt
* Shares up 5 pct in early trading
July 2 (Reuters) - American Greetings Corp’s founding family raised for the third time its offer to take the gift card maker private, sending the company’s shares up 5 percent in early trading.
The deal with the Weiss family, which made its initial offer in September, is now valued at about $606 million, excluding debt, based on its outstanding shares.
The bidding group, which includes Chief Executive Zev Weiss, Chairman Morry Weiss and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Weiss, said it would now offer $19 per share, according to a regulatory filing on Tuesday.
The original offer in September was $17.18 per share, which was raised to $17.50 in January and $18.20 in April. ()
Rising competition from social media sites and the bankruptcy of its British distributor, Clinton Cards Plc, in June 2012 have hurt American Greetings’ performance.
American Greetings’ net income fell more than 75 percent to $7.3 million in the quarter ended May 25, while net sales fell 2 percent to $389.3 million. ()
Clinton Cards failed to repay a 35 million pounds ($53.3 million) loan to American Greetings.
American Greetings’ fourth-largest shareholder TowerView LLC said in May it planned to vote against the going-private deal at the company’s annual stockholder meeting. TowerView held 6.2 percent of American Greetings’ Class A common stock as of May 29. ()
TowerView declined to comment on the raised offer price.
It was not immediately clear whether other shareholders have also opposed the going-private deal.
American Greetings, which describes itself as the world’s largest publicly owned creator, manufacturer and distributor of social expression products, went public in 1958, about 52 years after it was founded by Polish immigrant Jacob Sapirstein.
The company’s shares were at $18.93 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They touched a near two-year high of $18.96 earlier.