PARIS -- Groupe Pinault-Printemps, a diversified French distribution company, said Friday it plans to take full ownership of La Redoute, the biggest mail order house in France.
It now owns a controlling 54.36 percent of Redoute.
Pinault-Printemps had 1993 sales of $10.67 billion (63 billion francs) at current exchange rates.
Among its holdings are the Printemps department store chain and the Prisunic variety store chain.
Redoute, the third-largest catalog company in the world, has a huge catalog operation under its own name, one that is marketed in 11 European countries, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Lebanon.
Its sales last year were about $3.05 billion.
It also owns Britain's fifth-largest mail order group, Empire Stores; Italy's Vestro, which in 1992 claimed 18 percent of its home market, and several other French mail order firms.
To complete this merger, Redoute shareholders, including the Pollet family, which founded Redoute in 1929, will receive one Pinault-Printemps share for one Redoute share.
Before the actual merger, however, Pinault-Printemps shareholders will receive for free one Pinault-Printemps share for every 10 they already own.
The merger is subject to shareholders' approval at meetings to be held by both companies before the end of June.
If approved, Redoute will no longer exist as a separate holding. Its shares will become those of Pinault-Printemps, creating a group with one of the largest market capitalizations in France.
Redoute and its current president, Jean-Claude Sarazin, will retain management responsibilities for all mail order operations under the new structure.
Trading of the two companies' shares was suspended on the Paris Bourse Friday when the transaction was announced. Prior to the halt of trading, Pinault-Printemps shares were quoted at $168.64, and Redoute shares were quoted at $162.71.
Pinault-Printemps said in a statement that the merger "will strengthen [its] position as the European leader in non-food distribution."
The group said the pending integration will enable both companies to optimize sourcing and improve product offerings. The merger will also hasten both companies' moves into more sophisticated technology, most notably Redoute's interest in entering TV home shopping.After the merger, Redoute would benefit from Pinault-Printemps' financial clout in pursuing such an investment, said a Pinault-Printemps spokeswoman.
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