Australia’s oldest department store, David Jones, is shrouded in mystery.
A surprise takeover bid of $1.65 billion was reportedly announced last Friday, but those firms who advise the supposed bidder, a UK and Luxembourg-based real estate investment fund and private equity group called EB Private Equity, denied the company’s involvement in a deal with the ailing retailer.
“We have never heard of EB Private Equity and are not involved,” said the chief executive of Chalkhill Partners, Stewart Booth, to Deal Journal Australia. Chalkhill Partners, in addition to Lang LaSalle, were said to be advising EB Private Equity (a claim they have both denied.)
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The bidder was unmasked today as being John Edgar, a serial investor in various companies that no media outlet has so far confirmed as being actual businesses in current operation. Mr Edgar, the supposed EB Private Equity chairman, has said he plans to phone David Jones Chairman Bob Savage this week about the retail property’s assets.
According to the Financial Times, David Jones released details of a potential takeover in response to rumours about a bid circulating around the market. The 174-year-old department store posted share prices near an eight-year low before Friday’s announcement, citing customers’ preference to shop online and a 40 per cent profit plummet prediction for the financial year as reasons for their continued demise.
However, prices reportedly rose by 14.6 per cent to AU$2.59 by the market’s close.
In response to the takeover offer, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is expected to launch an investigation.
“Many could have benefited in a variety of ways from such a timely, even if short-lived, market rally, especially funds managers looking to meet annual targets,” wrote a blogger for The Australian. “No doubt the Australian Securities & Investments Commission will examine the details of this particular episode.”