Australians David Jones seek UK-based 'hoaxers'

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Fears are mounting that a surprise bid from a UK-based private equity firm for the 174-year-old Australian department store chain, David Jones, could turn out to be a hoax.

David Jones, which has 37 stores, received a £1.1bn (AUS$1.7bn) takeover approach via email. On Friday, David Jones confirmed the identity as EB Private Equity. Shares leapt 15 per cent, but supposed advisers Chalkhill Partners and Jones Lang LaSalle have since said they are not involved.

Newcastle-based EB has no telephone number but its website describes the group as a "Luxembourg and UK real estate and real estate-related investor, developer and private equity partner".

David Jones's chairman Bob Savage and his board are now trying to find the identity of the bidder and clarify the reason for disclosing such a preliminary bid approach. But, Australia's Financial Review said analysts are "privately calling it a hoax. No one in the market has heard of EB Private Equity."