Top Myer shareholder seeks owner list, spurs M&A speculation
* Move fuels takeover speculation, bid for board seats
* Myer annual general meeting scheduled for Nov. 30
* Shares rise as much as 9 pct, close up 4 pct
(Adds analyst and shareholder quotes, writes through)
By Tom Westbrook
SYDNEY, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Myer Holdings Ltd's
biggest shareholder has asked the Australian department store
chain for a full list of its owners, stoking speculation that a
takeover or board spill was in the offing and driving shares of
the company up 9 percent.
Premier Investments Ltd, chaired by billionaire
retail tycoon Solomon Lew, said in a statement that it wanted
the complete list, which is not publicly available, so it could
"consider writing" to shareholders ahead of Myer's annual
general meeting (AGM) in November.
Premier made a similar request a year ago, before mounting a
failed attempt to install three directors on a board Lew says
has been unable to prepare the 118-year-old company for an
explosion in online shopping.
This time, however, the move follows turmoil at the top of
the struggling retailer that hired a new CEO in June and posted
its first annual loss since listing in 2009.
Shares of Australia's biggest department store owner jumped
8.8 percent to a near two-week high on Wednesday as Premier's
latest move fuelled speculation of a takeover bid.
The stock settled about 4 percent higher, in a broader
market that was steady.
"Clearly the market moves show some people think this is a
pre-empt to (a takeover) offer," said Michael McCarthy, chief
strategist at stockbroker CMC Markets.
"I think that's possibly getting ahead of the game, but
until Mr Lew reveals his hand, we simply don't know."
A Premier spokeswoman did not provide any more details on
the matter when contacted by Reuters, while a Myer spokesman
declined to comment.
Under Australian law, Myer must provide the share registry
list to Premier within seven days.
Myer has been under pressure from Lew since a few months
after he bought a 10.8 percent stake in Myer last March, when
its shares were trading at more than double their present value.
It has also had to contend with sluggish consumer spending
in Australia, weighed by slow wage growth, as well as growing
competition from internet giants like Amazon.com Inc
that have undercut business by selling more products for less.
Lew marshalled enough support, more than a quarter of
shareholders, to vote down Myer's executive pay proposals at
last year's annual meeting.
If pay proposals are rejected for a second straight year at
the upcoming AGM, then under Australian corporate law, Myer must
give shareholders the option to replace the board.
A board revamp would, however, need to backed by a majority
of its shareholders and at least one large shareholder told
Reuters that the new CEO John King, who is in the midst of
overhauling the company, deserves more time.
King has already outlined plans to cut floor space and
middle managers, end stock clearance sales and overhaul the
company's online offerings.
"To me this is a time for stability and to let the new
management team perform," said Geoff Wilson, chairman of fund
manager Wilson Asset Management. "The early signs are positive
in a retail environment which is particularly challenging."
($1 = 1.3939 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook. Additional reporting by Nikhil
Kurian Nainan in BENGALURU; Editing by Himani Sarkar)
First Published: 2018-10-03 05:19:31
Updated 2018-10-03 08:59:20
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