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Somerfield accepts 1.1 billion-pound Apax offer

Somerfield accepts 1.1 billion-pound Apax offer

LONDON: Britain’s supermarket chain Somerfield Plc., is accepting the 1.1 billion-pound all-cash take-over offer from a consortium comprising Barclays Capital, property dealer Robert Tchenguiz and buyout firm Apax. The consortium is paying 197 pence a share for the retailer, subject to financing against Somerfield’s demand of 205 pence a share.

The two sides said there is no certainty that the deal will go through and further announcement would be made Friday. However, sources close to the two groups said they are positive about the deal.

Negotiations between Somerfield and the consortium have been conclusive, the sources said, and the final wait is for a recommendation from the Somerfield board.

In a domain crowded by the likes of Tesco, Asda and J. Sainsbury, Somerfield, the fifth largest retailer in the country, has been finding the competition a bit too tough.

Analysts following the high street portfolios feel the consortium, upon acquiring Somerfield, may look at its property rather than its business potential. It may sell off the retailer’s many of the assets, which are less valuable and then concentrate on the property.

Somerfield had gone through a bitter struggle to get itself acquired. The saga began in February when Baugur of Iceland expressed interest, but as the issue tended to be complicated, it dragged Apax into the fray. Two other suitors too joined the fray subsequently. Baugur pulled out, so were the two other candidates, London & Regional, which was basically interested in Somerfield’s property assets, and United Cooperatives. The consortium was the sole claimant then.

Barclays already owns 12.4 per cent of Somerfield.

Somerfield had revamped its stores and had become a convenience retailer. Its profit for the year ending April rose by 33 per cent on property gains. The sales had gone up 3.4 per cent.

The takeover Panel had set today as the deadline to conclude a deal.

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