DAVID Jones will attempt to re-establish contact this week with its mysterious takeover suitor, the little-known EB Private Equity and its equally enigmatic head, John Edgar, over the nature of its $1.65 billion takeover offer for the upmarket retailer amid growing concerns over the credibility of the surprise bid.
A finding that the bid lacked credibility could reverse much of the 14.6 per cent, or 33¢, gain in the David Jones share price recorded in heavy trade on Friday, when news of the approach was made public.
However, it is believed to be unlikely that regulators would undo Friday’s trades, because in its initial announcement the company warned investors to exercise caution.
It is understood executives at David Jones who received and examined last week’s takeover offer from the British-based EB Private Equity have never spoken to an officer or director from the firm and have only corresponded with the company via email.
However, Mr Edgar last night broke his silence, telling BusinessDay the negotiations were ”very preliminary”.
While it styles itself as a Luxembourg-based international equities and investment player, EB Private Equity’s British offices are housed in a dreary, two-storey building nestled between a wig shop and a noodle restaurant in the back streets of Newcastle, northern England.
Mr Edgar is also the owner of the Luxury Beverage Company Limited, which claims to sell a variety of luxury alcoholic brands. Last year, it announced it had launched the world’s most expensive non-alcoholic drink for the Islamic market, the $5.3 million-a-bottle Ruwa.
The company claims the beverage is sold in hand-made crystal decanters, studded with diamonds, rubies and white gold.
Over the weekend, the professional website of Laura Panton, the 20-year-old designer from West Yorkshire who created EB Private Equity’s web page, was shut down with a message telling visitors it was being ”updated”. This was shortly followed by changes made to EB Private Equity’s website, with Ms Panton’s name and contact details now removed from the site as the designer.
Ms Panton’s other websites have also been shut down or are now blocked. Her Twitter account remains open but has not been updated since April 21.
The shock takeover offer for David Jones sent the company’s shares racing on Friday as investors piled into the stock as the retailer released two announcements informing the market that an approach for 100 per cent of the company had been made.
The retailer’s finance director, Stephen Goddard, told BusinessDay it would seek further clarification from EB Private Equity.
”It’s pretty simple. We have sent a letter going through all the gaps and we want to have some dialogue, that this is the sort of information you will need to provide,” he said.
He said it was important to keep David Jones shareholders fully informed. ”Anyone can send a letter to anyone, and [it is] in the interests of our shareholders for us to explain this communication. There is an awful long way to go, based on the information we have to date.”
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is also believed to be investigating the nature of the takeover offer and the identity of the people behind the proposed bid.
With Rachel Wells and Elizabeth Knight
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