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Players Making Moves in Saks Sale Saga

Saks Inc. stock was active Thursday, amid continued speculation that a deal may happen soon.

Saks Inc. stock was active Thursday, amid continued speculation that a deal may happen soon and that private equity firm Sycamore Partners could enter the bidding for the luxury chain in tandem with another party.

This story first appeared in the July 26, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

There were also reports that Saks and Hudson’s Bay Co., which is bidding on Saks, had hired additional banks for advice.

Shares of Saks closed down 0.2 percent, or 3 cents, to $15.18 Thursday in heavy trading. Over 4.5 million shares traded hands, well above the 2.7 million average for the past three months. The company ended the day with a market capitalization of $2.2 billion and the stock has proven to be volatile as investors bet on whether the company will ultimately be bought out.

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It could not be determined who Sycamore could be partnering with, but sources said it could be Starwood Capital, which is mostly interested in Saks’ real estate and is said to be bidding for Saks against Hudson’s Bay, operator of Lord & Taylor in the U.S. and Hudson’s Bay in Canada. Hudson’s Bay could purchase Saks on its own or choose a partner to minimize risk.

Sycamore is considered a smaller private equity but the firm’s manager director and cofounder, Stefan Kaluzny, is well-connected. “He’s not big enough to go after Saks alone but he can pick up the phone and call anyone,” said one financial source. Sycamore’s holdings include The Talbots Inc., Hot Topic and a 51 percent stake in Mast Global, a sourcing firm. At Talbots, Sycamore has also brought back certain former members of the retailer’s executive team to engineer its turnaround.

Sources on Thursday also said KKR & Co. had renewed its interest in Saks after considering buying Saks and merging it with rival Neiman Marcus in May. Neiman’s, however, shot down that idea at the time. A KKR spokeswoman declined to comment. “If there is a [sale] process going on, you can be sure KKR is going to take a look,” said the source.

The DealReporter on Thursday wrote that Hudson’s Bay retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on a bid for Saks and that Saks is working with Morgan Stanley in addition to Goldman Sachs on strategic alternatives.

The sovereign wealth fund from Qatar, which this year bought Printemps in Paris and in 2010 purchased Harrods in London, has been interested in Saks, but this week financial sources suggested the Qatar group would only make a run for Saks if the share price in a deal was in the $15 to $16 range, and would bow out if the price jumped to $17 a share or higher. These individuals said the Qataris aren’t necessarily interested in a play for just a trophy asset, and are not about to overpay. The same is said to be true about Hudson’s Bay.