Discount chain bidding war


Family DollarDollar General, the biggest deep discount chain in the US, has started a bidding war for Family Dollar Stores, trumping a Dollar Tree merger deal agreed just weeks ago.

The battle underscores the tough competition among retailers in suburban and rural America, where the three chains go head to head with titan Walmart and others for low and middle income consumers.

A Dollar General-Family Dollar combination would have nearly 20,000 stores in 46 states and sales of more than $US28 billion ($A30.29 billion). That compares with Walmart’s 4900 mostly much larger US stores which generate 12 times that much in sales.

Dollar General offered to pay $US78.50 a share for Family Dollar, $US4 more than Dollar Tree’s offer, in an all cash deal valued at $US9.7 billion.

Dollar General said it had committed financing for the deal and would pay the $US305 million breakup fee if Family Dollar ended its agreed merger with Dollar Tree. To address any potential antitrust issues, it also said it was willing to divest up to 700 stores.

On July 28, the second ranked Family Dollar, under pressure from activist investor and shareholder Carl Icahn, agreed to be acquired by Dollar Tree, the third biggest dollar store chain, in a cash and stock deal valued at $US9.2 billion, including debt.

At the time, Icahn said he was pleased with the deal, but believed there were “a handful of potential buyers” who would make better partners for Family Dollar. We “are hopeful that one or more of them will surface as a result of today’s announcement”, he said.

Dollar General said Monday that its offer was “substantially superior” to Dollar Tree’s, giving Family Dollar shareholders a better price and immediate liquidity for their shares.

The customers of both companies would also benefit because “we would be able to provide better value and greater selection”, said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s Chairman and CEO.

If a merger agreement is reached, Dreiling, who had announced his retirement, would remain in his dual roles in the combined company until May 2016 to oversee the integration, the Goodlettsville,Tennessee-based company said.

Family Dollar confirmed it had received Dollar General’s offer and said that its board of directors will “carefully review and consider the proposal”.

Meanwhile, it said the board has not changed its recommendation in support of the merger with Dollar Tree.

Dollar Tree’s proposed tie up with Family Dollar, which sells name brand and private label goods at various prices, would create a smaller company with sales of more than $18 billion and more than 145,000 employees.

Dollar Tree declined to comment.

Dollar General announced in June it would soon expand into three new states – Maine, Rhode Island and Oregon – to bring its footprint to 43 states.

The company estimated the tie up with Family Dollar would generate synergies of $US550 to $US600 million annually three years after the deal is completed.

Bank of America predicted the combination with Family Dollar would be “very accretive to earnings”.

“Importantly, in our view, the deal should also lead to a slowdown in absolute store growth as well as take out a major competitor, putting DG in a better position to deal with WMT’s (Walmart’s) eventual ramp up in the small format stores, “the bank said in a research note,” the bank said.

“We view the deal as a win-win for all dollar stores and believe a counter offer from DLTR (Dollar Tree) unlikely, as more leverage would be required and synergies are far lower.”

Family Dollar shares gained 4.9 per cent to $US79.81, while Dollar General added 11.6 per cent and Dollar Tree fell by 2.4 per cent.


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