By  on April 18, 2005

NEW YORK — The bidding for Neiman Marcus Group is heading down to the wire, with second-round offers due within the next few days.

Financial sources said last week that the bid process is nearing completion, with one Wall Street source saying second-round offers are due today. A private equity professional close to the process agreed.

As reported last Wednesday, the front-runners were two consortia, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Bain Capital Partners, who are competing against Thomas H. Lee Partners and The Blackstone Group for the right to say they are the new owners of Neiman Marcus. According to financial sources, other bidders such as the joint partnership of Apollo Advisors and Leonard Green & Partners, as well as Texas Pacific Group, are not expected to participate in the second round of bidding.

Calls to the private equity firms for comment either were not returned or their spokesmen declined comment.

Meanwhile, some buyout firms not involved in the bidding said late last week they heard initial offers were in the $5 billion range, or about $100 a share. Their expectation, although speculative, is that the second-round bids will be higher than $105 a share, making the entire 37-store chain worth closer to $5.5 billion.

Shares of Neiman Marcus closed at $92.55, down $2.50, in trading on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. Neiman shares climbed as high as $95.06 in intraday trading, but lost ground as Wall Street on Friday suffered its worst single day of trading in nearly two years. The Dow Jones Industrial average on Friday fell 191.24 points on concerns over drops in manufacturing and production levels and higher oil costs driving up the import price structure.

Regarding other plays on the M&A front, shares of Saks Inc. tumbled by 7 percent in trading Friday due to the retailer’s delay in filing its annual report.

As reported, Saks was said to be close to a deal to sell its Profitt’s and McRae’s nameplates to Belk Inc.

Saks’ stock closed at $17.47, down $1.37, in trading on the Big Board. Shares fell nearly 10 percent earlier in the day in intraday trading.“What we saw was immense overreaction. I would not have expected a 10 percent [decline] since we already knew about the accounting issues,” observed Bill Dreher, senior research analyst, broadlines, at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

Trading on Friday reflected Saks’ announcement Thursday evening after the financial markets closed that it did not file its 2004 annual report, or Form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The retailer cited its ongoing internal investigation relating to vendor allowances at its Saks Fifth Avenue division as one reason for the delay. It added that the “investigators are now also examining related accounting and financial matters that have arisen during the course of the investigation.”

Saks also noted that the internal probe is not expected to be completed in time to allow it to file the 10-K by the April 29 extended deadline date. It also said there is the possibility that the investigation might not be completed by the end of April.

Further, in a Form 8-K filed with the SEC, Saks said its expectation of a delay in filing its 10-K for 2004 past the extended deadline “will compel the company to suspend the use of any prospectus under its currently effective registration statement covering resales of its senior convertible notes.”

The retailer noted that under the terms of the registration rights agreement between the company and the senior convertible notes holders, a suspension if it extends beyond a certain time period would require Saks to pay “liquidated damages” to the note holders. The liquidated damages start at an annual rate of 0.25 percent and after 90 days increase to 0.5 percent.

The delay also caused the retailer to postpone its annual shareholders meeting, which was set for May 31.

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