LUXOTTICA TALKS WITH U.S. SHOE HAVE HIT SNAG

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — Talks on a confidentiality agreement between Luxottica and U.S. Shoe broke down Thursday, when the Italian eyewear maker charged that U.S. Shoe was “unwilling to sign a reasonable” accord.
Luxottica has been negotiating with U.S. Shoe to gain access to non-public information, which could have brought a higher bid for the Casual Corner parent than the $24 per share the Italian firm offered March 3.
In another development, Mark Harnett, spokesman for CS First Boston, which is financing Luxottica’s $1.1 billion bid, said the Milan-based company plans to extend its cash tender offer, which expires today.
Few U.S. Shoe shares have been tendered, as the stock has been trading above $24 since Luxottica’s bid. On Thursday, U.S. Shoe stock closed unchanged at 26 1/8 on the New York Stock Exchange.
In a March 30 letter to Bannus B. Hudson, U.S. Shoe’s president and chief executive officer, Luxottica managing director Claudio del Vecchio wrote that Luxottica had sent a confidentially agreement “that we believe is eminently reasonable.” The letter continued: “All that it requires is your signature to be effective. Then we can finally proceed to the really important negotiations.”
Del Vecchio also wrote that U.S. Shoe has not presented shareholders with any alternative to compete with Luxottica’s offer.
“I think Luxottica’s playing poker,” said a source at Omega Advisors, a New York investment firm with a 5.8 percent stake in U.S. Shoe. “They’re sticking to their bid for now, but I’m convinced they really want LensCrafters, and if they want to get it, they’ll have to pay more.”
Meanwhile, Luxottica had called for a special meeting to remove the board of U.S. Shoe. — Fairchild News Service