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躲避零售業崩盤策略:Hudson’s Bay將退市

Hudson’s Bay從削減成本到剝離資產,將所有方法都試了個遍,但沒有任何辦法能阻止該公司股價急劇下挫。

為了安撫股東,薩克斯第五大道精品百貨店的母公司、加拿大企業Hudson’s Bay Co.從削減成本到剝離資產,將所有方法都試了個遍,但沒有任何辦法能阻止該公司股價急劇下挫。因此,董事長理查德·貝克爾打算拿出約13.1億美元的現金讓這家公司退市。

貝克爾同Rhone Capital LLC、WeWork Property Advisors等投資者向持有Hudson’s Bay剩余股份的股東提出每股7.12美元的報價。這些投資者發表聲明稱,他們目前持有這家公司57%左右的股份,而上述報價比這家零售企業上周五的收盤價高48%。

如果成功,本次收購將成為Hudson’s Bay的首席執行官海倫娜·福克斯為扭虧而提出的全方位解決方案的下一步。該公司已經剝離了限時搶購網站Gilt,通過裁員降低了成本,向Rhone Capital轉讓了少量股權,同時將曼哈頓的標志性Lord & Taylor旗艦店作價8.5億美元出售給了WeWork。但這些舉措一直毫無作用——從2012年到上周五收盤,這只股票的價值已經蒸發了幾乎三分之二。

本周一下午開盤不久,貝克爾發出收購要約的消息就推動Hudson’s Bay上漲44%,達到6.93美元。

彭博行業研究的分析師普拉姆·戈亞爾指出,這家公司正在重新聚焦于北美,退市后它將在嘗試新思路方面具有更大的靈活性。

戈亞爾說:“零售行業正在發生巨變,也許他們需要的就是靈活性。”

多倫多零售業咨詢機構Retail Advisors Network的聯合創始人及合伙人布魯斯·溫德認為,Hudson’s Bay要做的工作包括剝離Lord & Taylor時裝連鎖店以及全面調整不斷滑坡的加拿大門店網絡。溫德在加拿大商業電視臺BNN Bloomberg上表示,該公司還應該向薩克斯第五大道精品百貨店投入大量資金,因為那是“最有機會的地方”。

溫德說:“這樣的大手術真的需要先退市再做,因為市場會變得瘋狂,而你的股價會下跌。看看去年的諾德斯特龍,他們也想方設法要退市。我們都知道百貨業面臨著相當大的困難,而且處于滑坡狀態。”

撤出德國

Hudson’s Bay在另一則相關聲明中表示,正在剝離規模11.3億美元的歐洲業務。這家總部設在多倫多的公司稱,已經與合作伙伴Signa Holding GmBH達成協議,后者將接管雙方建立的德國房地產和零售合資公司,涉及的業務包括德國最大百貨店集團Galeria Kaufhof和零售連鎖店Karstadt。所得資金的一部分將用于償還定期貸款,從而改善Hudson’s Bay的資產負債情況。

本次退市與Hudson’s Bay和Signa Holding的協議無關,后者預計將在今年秋天執行完畢。上述收購要約可以讓貝克爾及其合作伙伴在不受股市關注的情況下繼續設法讓Hudson’s Bay扭虧為盈。

貝克爾在本周一發表的聲明中表示:“我們相信改善Hudson’s Bay的業績需要很長時間以及有耐心的長期資本,而這些更適合非上市公司,因為它不會把短期業績和回報作為重點。”

特別委員會

Hudson’s Bay稱尚未就貝克爾的要約做出決定,而且已經成立了特別委員會,以便在外部顧問的協助下探討此項建議。

這已經不是該公司股東第一次想要出手了。去年,維權投資人Land & Buildings Investment Management就敦促Hudson’s Bay尋找提升股東價值的方法,其中就包括呼吁該公司內部人士考慮退市。這只由喬納森·利特掌管的紐約對沖基金還要求Hudson’s Bay出售歐洲分公司及其他房地產。

據熟悉情況的人士透露,Land & Buildings Investment Management仍然持有數量可觀的Hudson’s Bay股份。雖然這只對沖基金還在評估要約收購條款,但其初步感覺是貝克爾的報價低估了Hudson’s Bay的價值。

代表Land & Buildings Investment Management的人士拒絕發表評論。

獲得批準

另一些了解情況但要求提到私密信息時不透露其姓名的人士指出,此項交易還需要征得逾半數外部股東,或者說大部分少數股東的同意。

這些人士透露,股市一直未能認可18個月來 Hudson’s Bay為提升股東價值而采取的措施,投資者因此感到受挫,進而引發了上述要約收購。而此前的這些措施包括轉讓Gilt、關閉家裝連鎖店Home Outfitters以及出售其他房地產。

他們說,退市后,投資者就能在股市的目光以外繼續采取必要措施來改善Hudson’s Bay的經營情況。

以諾德斯特龍為首,近幾年想退市的其他零售商均以失敗告終。但這些消息人士稱,上述這些投資者相信Hudson’s Bay實現退市的可能性較高,原因是收購方致力于此事,而且報價包含的溢價對少數股東來說應該有吸引力。

這些消息人士還指出,最終能否成功取決于現金和流動性水平,而在完成上述歐洲交易后,Hudson’s Bay就會得到現金和流動性。同時,這些投資者不打算顯著調整該公司目前的計劃。

經營方面的變化可能較多。轉讓給Signa Holdings的德國分公司不包括荷蘭的業務,后者將回到Hudson’s Bay旗下。Hudson’s Bay表示,荷蘭業務的表現一直未達到預期,而它正在考慮荷蘭業務的處置方案。另外,該公司還預計將通過關閉門店等措施來降低成本。(財富中文網)

譯者:Charlie

審校:夏林

Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Co., owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, has tried everything to appease shareholders, from cutting costs to selling off assets. None of it has halted the stock’s steady decline, so chairman Richard Baker is stepping in with a cash bid valued at about $1.31 billion to take the company private.

Baker is teaming up with investors, including Rhone Capital LLC and WeWork Property Advisors, to offer $7.12 a share for the remaining stock of Hudson’s Bay. The group owns about 57% of the company’s outstanding common shares, and the offer represents a 48% premium to the retailer’s closing share price on last Friday, the investors said in a statement.

The offer, if successful, would be a next step in CEO Helena Foulkes’s everything-is-on-the-table approach to turning Hudson’s Bay around. The company has already divested flash-sale website Gilt, slashed costs by cutting jobs, unloaded a minority stake to Rhone Capital, and sold its iconic Lord & Taylor flagship building in Manhattan to WeWork for $850 million. But it’s been to no avail—through last week’s close, the stock since 2012 had lost almost two thirds of its value.

On Monday, news of the offer drove the shares up 44% to $6.93 by early afternoon.

Going private will give Hudson’s Bay more flexibility to try new ideas as the company refocuses on North America, said Poonam Goyal, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

“The retail sector is undergoing massive transformations, and maybe they just need the flexibility,” Goyal said.

The company’s work to do includes jettisoning the Lord & Taylor fashion clothing chain and overhauling its declining network of Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada, according to Bruce Winder, co-founder & partner at the Retail Advisors Network in Toronto. It should also invest heavily in its Saks Fifth Avenue chain, since that’s “where the action is,” Winder told BNN Bloomberg Television.

“To do this kind of drastic surgery, you really need to do it in private because markets will go crazy, your stock price will fall,’’ Winder said. “Look at Nordstrom last year, they tried to make a play to go private as well. We all know the department store sector is suffering considerably and it’s in decline.’’

Leaving Germany

In a related announcement, Hudson’s Bay said it is cashing out of its European operations—to the tune of $1.13 billion. The Toronto-based company said it reached an agreement for partner Signa Holding GmBH to take over the companies’ German real estate and retail joint venture, which includes Galeria Kaufhof, the country’s largest department store group, and the retail chain Karstadt. Part of the proceeds will be used to strengthen the company’s balance sheet by paying down a term loan.

HBC’s bid to go private is dependent on the deal with Signa, which is expected to close this fall. The shareholder deal would allow Baker and his partners to continue the company’s turnaround efforts outside the glare of public markets.

“We believe that improving HBC’s performance will require significant time and patient long-term capital that is better suited in a private-company context without the emphasis on short-term results and returns,” Baker said in a statement Monday.

Special committee

Hudson’s Bay said no decision has been made on Baker’s bid, and the retailer has formed a special committee to review the proposal with the assistance of outside advisers.

This isn’t the first time shareholders have tried to get involved. Activist investor Land & Buildings Investment Management last year pushed the company to explore ways to improve value for shareholders, such as calling for Hudson’s Bay’s insiders to explore taking the company private. The New York hedge fund, run by Jonathan Litt, also called for the company to sell its European division and other real estate.

Land & Buildings still owns a sizable position in Hudson’s Bay, according to people familiar with the matter. While the hedge fund is evaluating the terms of the transaction, initial impressions are the proposed price undervalues the company, the people said.

A representative for Land & Buildings declined to comment.

Getting approval

The transaction would be subject to approval of the majority of remaining shareholders outside the group—or a majority of the minority holders, according to other people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

The deal’s timing was sparked by investor frustration over how public markets have failed to recognize steps Hudson’s Bay has taken over the past 18 months to improve shareholder value, the people said. These moves include the sale of Gilt, shutting down the Home Outfitters home decor chain, and the sale of other real estate assets.

By taking the company private, investors will be able to continue necessary steps to improve its operations outside of the gaze of the public market, they said.

Other retailers—most notably Nordstrom Inc.—have failed in their bids to go private in recent years. But the investor group believes the Hudson’s Bay transaction has a better chance of being completed because the equity group is committed to the deal and the premium being paid should appeal to minority holders, the people said.

Its ultimate success is contingent on the level of cash and liquidity, which will come with the closing of the parallel European deal, the people noted, adding the investor group doesn’t plan to drastically change the trajectory of the company’s current plans.

In terms of operations, more changes are likely. The sale of the German business to Signa doesn’t include operations in the Netherlands, which will revert to Hudson’s Bay ownership. Hudson’s Bay said it’s reviewing options for the Netherlands business, “which has not performed to expectations.” In the meantime, the company expects to cut costs by measures that include closing stores.

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