SAKES TALKS ACCELERATE; JULY DEAL A POSSIBILITY

CANNES, France — A deal for Saks Fifth Avenue could happen a lot sooner than originally anticipated.
According to sources here at the Fairchild Publications-National Retail Federation Global Retail Summit, talks have accelerated over the past few days and a decision is now expected in July.
Last week, when Investcorp — the Bahrain-based company that owns Saks — announced that the chain was up for sale, it was reported in these columns that a timetable of 45 to 60 days had been established for completion of a deal.
It now appears as though that much time might not be necessary.
First, a management buyout has reportedly been ruled out.
Second, the field of potential buyers has narrowed, sources said, with the leading candidates Neiman Marcus Group and Proffitt’s, followed by Nordstrom. Federated Department Stores is apparently no longer regarded as a viable candidate.
By acquiring Saks, Neiman Marcus would gain enormous buying power and immeasurably strengthen its presence in New York, where it already owns the Bergdorf Goodman men’s and women’s stores on Fifth Avenue.
In addition, Neiman’s could close many of Saks’ weaker units. The two chains share a total of 16 sites in malls or downtown locations.
On the other hand, a Saks-Neiman’s deal might also raise some antitrust problems, since both companies combined command a huge chunk of the luxury market.
News that Saks was up for sale provided a bump for its stock, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, last Thursday, when it rose 2 11/16. It fell 15/16 on Friday and closed Monday at 27 13/16, up 1 1/4.
Investcorp, as reported, is seeking a 30 percent premium on the stock and the $900 million debt load that Saks carries.

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