German retail chain buys quarter of Budgens from Brierley: European connection with opportunities in buying and logistics

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The Independent Online
ONE of Europe's biggest food retailers, the German Rewe Group, has bought a 26.3 per cent stake in Budgens, the UK supermarket chain, for pounds 23.5m from BIL Securities, the investment vehicle controlled by Sir Ron Brierley, the New Zealand entrepreneur.

Rewe, which has about 15 per cent of the German food retail market and operates through 8,000 stores, paid 55p for the shares compared with an opening price for Budgens yesterday of 46p. Budgens shares closed 3p up at 49p on the news.

John von Sprekelsen, chief executive, said that he knew Rewe well and had introduced the German retailer to BIL as a potential trade investor in Budgen. Sir Ron was a prime mover, through IEP Securities, in bringing Mr von Sprekelsen into Budgens in April 1991, when leading shareholders ousted John Fletcher, the former chairman and chief executive.

Sir Ron originally became involved in Budgens with a small shareholding in the spring of 1989 when an agreed pounds 132m bid from William Low, the Scottish supermarket chain, seemed likely to go through.

The bid was withdrawn and Budgens' fortunes subsequently declined. Sir Ron then built up a significant stake in order to average down the cost of his stake.

Stephen Bellamy, a BIL director, said that Brierley interests had shown a profit on the whole exercise before taking account of a write-down of the Budgens stake to 30p or so in BIL's last accounts.

Mr von Sprekelsen claimed that a European connection of this kind would bring opportunities in better buying terms, in pooling knowledge on store formats and in logistics as Budgens had one of the most modern distribution networks in Europe.

Although Bremen, Rewe's base, is the home of Becks beer, Mr von Sprekelsen said there were no plans to boost the German food and drink content of Budgens' 100 UK stores.

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