Cash is king in bid war

Northern Foods has accepted a tasty £342m takeover bid from Ranjit Singh Boparan, head of 2 Sisters Group. Boparan has offered 75p per share in cash for Northern Food, despite the latter having earlier accepted a lower all-share bid from Irish food group Greencore.


Anthony Hobson, chairman of Northern, said: "The Boparan Holdings cash offer provides shareholders with an immediate premium. The bid is a compelling opportunity for our shareholders to realise a cash exit and, as such, the board will unanimously recommend the offer."


One potential stumbling block for Boparan is Northern Foods' pension scheme, which has a £142m deficit. Greencore had agreed terms with the pension fund trustees before making its earlier bid for Northern Foods. However, it is understood that Boparan and advisers from Rothschild have agreed terms with the pension fund trustees, although the details of these remain private. Dealers reckon it is unlikely that Greencore will make another bid, given the high price being paid by Boparan.


Tesco disappointing result


Tesco saw its market price tag marked down by 4% after it reported disappointing sales in the UK over the six weeks to 8 January. Tesco said that UK like-for-like sales rose by only 0.6% over Christmas. Sales were hit by the poor showing of the non-food division. It was the weakest set of results since Sir Terry Leahy became chief executive in 1997. Sir Terry described the performance as "solid", but announced that the weather had a negative impact on trading.


Growth in UK like-for-like food sales of 1.7% was pulled back by a 1.5% fall in non-food sales. In contrast, J Sainsbury said that UK like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, rose by 3.6% over the 14 weeks to 6 January.


M&S hit by weather


The pre-Christmas snow cost Marks & Spencer over £50m in lost sales as shoppers stayed at home. The snow meant food sales were reduced by 1%, or around £15m, while clothing sales fell by 3% or around £40m over the 13 weeks to 1 January.


Asda sells 39 Netto stores


Asda, the supermarket group, has sold 39 of its remaining 47 Netto stores. This sale was demanded by The Office of Fair Trading, which said Asda must sell off the stores after it bought 194 stores in Netto's UK arm for £778m.


Asda said most of the stores have been sold to Wm Morrison, Iceland and Haldanes. Eight more stores will be sold in the near future. Morrisons said the stores "will fit very well" into its 437-strong UK store portfolio. The handover will be made during the three months from March 2011.


retailer may change scottish plans


J Sainsbury is considering altering its expansion plans in Scotland if the Scottish government pushes ahead with a tax increase that would add one-fifth to the retailer's rates bill.

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