LUXOTTICA EXTENDS $24 OFFER TO APRIL 28 IN U.S. SHOE BID

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK--Luxottica Group SpA said Friday it has extended its $24-per-share cash tender offer for U.S. Shoe Corp. to April 28.
U.S. Shoe shareholders had tendered 973,362 shares or 2.1 percent of the Casual Corner parent's 46.6 million shares as of last Thursday, according to a preliminary count.
U.S. Shoe stock was unchanged Thursday at 26 1/2 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock market was closed on Friday.
Luxottica, an eyewear maker based in Milan, Italy, also extended to April 28 the date by which U.S. Shoe shareholders would deliver votes to call a special meeting of U.S. Shoe shareholders to remove U.S. Shoe directors and replace them with Luxottica's nominees.
As reported, U.S. Shoe on March 16 rejected Luxottica's $1.1 billion bid to acquire the Cincinnati-based firm as inadequate and agreed to sell its footwear division to Nine West for $600 million.
U.S. Shoe shareholders will vote at a meeting Friday on whether Luxottica can proceed with its $24 offer.
"We certainly are campaigning against approval of Luxottica continuing with its $24 takeover bid," said Robert Burton, director of investor relations for U.S. Shoe. "Our opinion is that anything that encourages Luxottica to proceed with a $24 offer is against the best interests of our shareholders."
He added that U.S. Shoe is "campaigning aggressively" against Luxottica's plan to call the special meeting. "We're telling shareholders it would be encouraging a $24 offer."
A spokesman for CS First Boston, which is financing Luxottica's takeover attempt, didn't rule out the possibility of a higher bid before the meeting. However, he noted, an improved offer could just as likely come after the April 21 confrontation.
"I suppose a higher bid would make it an easier thing for shareholders to vote for us at the meeting," he acknowledged.
Analysts have predicted that if U.S. Shoe succeeds in its effort to sell its troubled apparel retailing unit, it would spark Luxottica--which launched its $24-per-share cash tender offer March 3--to sweeten its bid. As reported, Luxottica plans to keep LensCrafters.
Industry observers now expect U.S. Shoe to get a far lower price than the $100 million it reportedly sought for its 1,300 apparel stores, including Petite Sophisticate and Casual & Co., which generate sales of $1.1 billion. --Fairchild News Service

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