Paul Jarvis

Fnac raises Darty bid again in attempt to ward off Steinhoff

Groupe Fnac SA raised its offer for French electronics retailer Darty Plc to 900 million pounds ($1.3 billion) in a final effort to stave off rival suitor Steinhoff International Holdings NV.

Fnac, which sells consumer electronics, books, videos and music, said investors would receive 170 pence a share in cash, raising its bid from 153 pence. The company has traded blows with Steinhoff, which last week upped its terms to 160 pence a share.

Both suitors have raised their bids numerous times for a business that leads the French market for items such as refrigerators and televisions, but is little known outside its home. The rapid-fire nature of the contest is unusual in the procedural world of takeovers and shows how both companies recognize the need to get bigger in a market under pressure from online retailers like  Amazon.com Inc. Steinhoff said it’s considering its options after the new bid.

“There’s a greater than 50 percent chance that they’ll come back with a slightly higher offer,” said Mark Hodgson, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets Ltd. in Cape Town. “There are enough reasons to make it an attractive fit.”

Darty Gains

Darty shares rose as much as 6.1 percent to 173 pence in London, above the offer, and traded at 170.50 pence at 2:56 p.m. local time. Fnac fell 0.8 percent to 54.19 euros in Paris. Steinhoff gained 0.9 percent to 5.28 euros in Frankfurt.

Fnac said it now speaks for Darty shares representing 39.8 percent of the total, either through shares it has purchased or indications of support for its offer. Steinhoff has said investment managers have sold it about 19.5 percent of Darty’s shares.

The latest bid includes a partial share alternative of 1 share for every 25 Darty shares.

For Steinhoff, acquiring Darty’s 400 outlets would continue a takeover spree that included the 2011 purchase of French furniture chain Conforama. Fnac may need the deal more as it has fewer alternatives for consolidation.

The auction began last year when Fnac made a proposal that Darty rejected as being too low. It came back with a bid of 101 pence a share, and got Darty’s board to agree at 116 pence. Steinhoff crashed the party in March with an offer at 125 pence a share.

– Bloomberg