David Jones delays vote on Woolworths bid

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IOL pic jun17 Woolworths store signage Independent Newspapers File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Sydney - David Jones postponed a shareholder meeting to vote on a $2-billion bid by South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings after billionaire Solomon Lew bought a 9.9 percent stake in the Australian retailer.

David Jones received approval in the Federal Court to delay the meeting by two weeks to July 14 so it can assess the implications of Lew’s holding, the Sydney-based company said on Thursday in a statement. The billionaire’s Australian Retail Investments said on Wednesday it held 9.9 percent of David Jones stock.

The purchase by Lew, a former board member of Reserve Bank of Australia, is threatening the bid by Woolworths to take control of Australia’s biggest department store chain by market value. Lew has also blocked the Cape Town-based company from taking full control of Australian apparel store Country Road since 1997 through a stake of about 12 percent held by Australian Retail Investments.

Lew spent about A$209 million ($197 million) buying 53 million David Jones shares between May 9 and June 16, according to a June 18 regulatory statement. The offer by Woolworths needs the votes of 75 percent of David Jones shareholders attending the meeting, originally planned for June 30.

David Jones reiterated its unanimous recommendation of Woolworths’ cash offer of A$4 a share in the absence of a superior proposal, the retailer said on Thursday. Lew hasn’t disclosed his intentions since David Jones disclosed he held a 0.65 percent stake May 30.

Lauren Thompson, a spokeswoman for Lew, declined to comment when reached by phone.

Premier Investments, the fashion and stationery group that counts Lew as chairman and 42 percent shareholder, had A$222 million of net cash at the end of January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Woolworths Holdings isn’t related to Woolworths Ltd, the supermarket chain that’s Australia’s biggest retailer. - Bloomberg

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