Woolworths won't hike buyout offers

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Woolworths_dec 10 INDEPENDENT MEDIA File photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - South African upscale food and clothing retailer Woolworths said on Monday it would not sweeten its $2.1 billion takeover offer for Australia's David Jones, which it deemed already fair.

Woolworths also said it would not raise its $A200 million offer to buy out minorities in its other Australian investment, Country Road, where it owns nearly 88 percent.

“We have put forward a full and fair offer for Country Road, and also for David Jones,” Woolworths chief executive Ian Moir said in a statement.

“This means (Woolworths) will not increase the offer price.”

Woolworths has made a A$4.00 per share offer for David Jones and A$17.00 per share for the rest of Country Road as part of its stated ambition to become a top southern hemisphere retailer.

But the David Jones deal has fallen into doubt after Australian billionaire Solomon Lew built up his stake to about 10 percent, leading to speculation he intended to force Woolworths to raise its offer or buy him out in Country Road.

Lew, who has not publicly disclosed his reasons for rapidly amassing more David Jones shares, owns the bulk of the minority holding in Country Road.

David Jones has already pushed back by two weeks, a shareholder vote on the deal scheduled for June 30th to assess the impact of the retail mogul's stake.

Share in Woolworths were up 1.09 percent by 15:41 SA time, while David Jones ended flat at A$3.94, a touch below the bid price. - Reuters

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