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Sunday 19 August 2018

Tesco-Booker deal to face crunch shareholder vote

Investors will hold separate meetings on Wednesday to cast their votes on the tie-up

A Tesco sign, as the £3.7 billion takeover of Booker faces a crunch vote (PA)
A Tesco sign, as the £3.7 billion takeover of Booker faces a crunch vote (PA)

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

Tesco will hope to avoid a bloody nose next week when its £3.7 billion takeover of wholesaler Booker faces shareholder scrutiny.

Tesco and Booker investors will hold separate meetings on Wednesday to cast their votes on the proposed tie-up, which has been billed as delivering £200 million in cost savings.

The deal has received a mixed reception from shareholder advisory groups amid concerns that Tesco’s offer undervalues the Londis and Budgens owner.

However, Britain’s biggest supermarket was handed a boost on Wednesday when advisory firm Pensions Investments and Research Consultants (Pirc) urged shareholders to back the merger.

In reports to Tesco and Booker shareholders, Pirc advised investors to approve the deal to create the “UK’s leading food business”.

Despite the boost, Britain’s biggest supermarket could still be in for a bumpy ride after Institutional Shareholder Services recommended Booker investors oppose the deal.

Although the combination is expected to result in substantial synergies, it appears that Booker shareholders will have limited potential benefit from those synergies Institutional Shareholder Services

ISS said the transaction “does not warrant support at the current terms”.

In a note, ISS said: “Although the combination is expected to result in substantial synergies, it appears that Booker shareholders will have limited potential benefit from those synergies.

“In addition, the rationale for Booker shareholders to give up control appears less than compelling at the relatively low premium offered.”

ISS said Tesco appeared to be “getting the better deal” under current terms.

The disapproval adds to criticism from Sandell Asset Management, which is pressing for a higher offer from the supermarket giant.

Sandell, which owns a 1.75% slice of Booker, said it should pay out all of its 2018 profits as a closing dividend to shareholders, as opposed to 65%.

The group also claimed that Booker is worth between 255p and 265p a share, much more than the 205.3p offered by Tesco.

Tesco, which is undergoing a turnaround under chief executive Dave Lewis, got the green light for the takeover from the competition watchdog in December.

The firms also announced that highly regarded Booker boss Charles Wilson will head Tesco’s UK business following the tie-up.

The supermarket group has more than 3,000 stores across the UK, while Booker is the country’s largest wholesaler.

It supplies more than 5,000 stores under the Premier, Londis, Budgens and Family Shopper brands, as well as thousands of independent retailers and caterers.

Press Association

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