Coles Myer rejects LBO overtures

The board of the Australian retailer has rejected the $12bn offer from a consortium of private equity firms including KKR, Blackstone and Bain Capital.

The board of Australian retailer Coles Myer has rejected a bid to take the company private, according to a statement released today by the company.

Two private equity firms—Boston’s Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group of New York—joined Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in its bid for Coles Myer late last month. The deal valued the company at more than A$16.4 billion (€9.8 billion; $12.6 billion).

Allert: no free options

“With such a conditional proposal, the consortium is effectively seeking a free option over the company,” Coles Myer chairman Rick Allert said in a statement. He continued: “The Board has no intention of handing across billions of dollars of value that belongs to our shareholders to a third party.”

The statement went on to say the retailer was already moving forward with its own plan to increase profits.

The bidding group included The Carlyle Group, Pacific Equity Partners, Newbridge Capital, CVC Asia Pacific and Goldman Sachs, in addition to Bain, Blackstone and KKR. 

In late August, the retailer announced it had received a buyout offer from a group of private equity firms. The market value of Coles Myer, which owns supermarkets, discount chains, gas stations and liquor stores, jumped 5.6 percent in the wake of the news.

“The board will undertake proper consideration of the proposal and will not be pressured by market speculation to take actions which would not be in the best interests of shareholders,” Allert said at the time. “The board remains confident that the company’s growth strategy will create significant value for shareholders.”
Coles Myer is one of Australia’s largest retailers with more than 2,600 outlets on the continent and in New Zealand, including stores under the Kmart, Target, Office Works and Bi-Lo banners. The company employs more than 165,000 people. Last year, the company registered almost A$34 billion in sales, up 13.3 percent over the previous year, according to the company’s annual report.

While the retail club deal may still be relatively uncommon on Australian shores, the US has seen a number of these deals in recent years, including high-profile buyouts of plaything retailer Toys “R” Us, supermarket chain Albertson’s and department store Neiman Marcus.

Deutsche Bank, Freehills and Carnegie Wylie advised Coles Myer. UBS advised the buyer consortium.