Marks & Spencer struggles to beat hostile takeover


Mon, Jul 12, 2004 - Page 12

Troubled British retail giant Marks & Spencer will attempt to ward off an aggressive takeover bid by offering shareholders a sizeable cash sweetener package, reports said yesterday.

Stuart Rose, the new chief executive of the food and clothing chain, will pledge up to around ?2 billion (US$3.7 billion) in cash for shareholders, around ?1 per share, newspapers said.

Rose is due to outline his vision for the future of the company today, an event seen by analysts as crucial to attempts to see off repeated overtures from by retail billionaire Philip Green.

On Thursday, Marks & Spencer's board of directors rejected a third bid from Green, worth ?9.1 billion, but reports have suggested that shareholders are becoming increasingly keen on the buyout.

"There is not just a tank on the lawn; there is a very large barrel of a gun pressed against the window," one "insider" told the Observer newspaper about Green's bid, which he has said is final.

Green, owner of such British fashion chain stores as Top Shop and Miss Selfridge, has been given an Aug. 6 deadline by the British Takeover Panel to make a formal offer.

Marks & Spencer, one of the best-known names in British shopping, has seen a recovery derail over the past year as it struggles to compete against smaller fashion retailers and large supermarket chains.

It ousted chief executive Roger Holmes and chairman Luc Vandevelde with immediate effect on May 31, bringing in Rose, a retail veteran, to try to fend off Green's advances.