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Bid sparks Gant battle

Lacoste owner Maus Frères will consider a joint venture with Gant if its bid to take over the Swedish fashion brand fails, but Gant chairman Lennart Björk is seeking a “white knight” to help him thwart any proposed deal.

This week, Maus Frères heaped pressure on Gant’s shareholders after it vowed to retain its 25.8% stake in the Swedish brand as a “long term investment” regardless of whether its bid was successful.

This would leave Gant’s stock extremely illiquid because of other large single shareholdings in the company.

Maus Frères also said it would consider a joint venture if it became the majority shareholder in Gant but urged shareholders to consider the complete offer, which would enable them to “cash out” at a premium, carefully.

However Björk, who holds a 16% stake, said he had been approached by several interested parties and that he was prepared to “seek help” to protect the business.

The war of words between the parties began after the Gant board urged shareholders to reject the Swiss retail group’s offer of SEK310 (£24.63) pershare via subsidiary Procastorlast week.

At the time Björk told shareholders there was more value left in the business as a public company.

He said: “Gant’s track record in delivering profits, cash flow and shareholder returns, in combination with exciting growth prospects, are the basis of our recommendation to shareholders to say no to Procastor’s offer and support Gant as an independent firm.”

Maus Frères countered in astatement that the Gant board had not provided adequate comment on last year’s results and forecasts for the next two years. It said: “The Gant board has recommended shareholders not to accept the offer but has not provided adequate supporting analysis to substantiate its recommendation.”

Maus Frères chief executive Guy Latourette said he remained confident Gant shareholders would support the bid, which represented a 31% premium to Gant’s pre-bid share price. The offer was due to expire as Drapers went to press. If Maus Frères is successfulin its bid for Gant it plans to speed up international growth, especially in the US and Japan.

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