Troubled Oliver in takeover talks

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The Independent Online

Oliver Group, the 140-year-old shoe retailer, yesterday said it was in talks with an undisclosed suitor that "may or may not lead" to an offer for the company.

Oliver Group, the 140-year-old shoe retailer, yesterday said it was in talks with an undisclosed suitor that "may or may not lead" to an offer for the company.

The troubled footwear firm, which has had three chairmen in the past two years, said the takeover bid, if made, would be pitched "at or about" yesterday's closing price of 11.5p. That would value the company at £5.8m.

Analysts said the statement could indicate a revival of discussions between Oliver and Stead & Simpson. The privately held S&S was widely thought to be the unidentified partner with whom Oliver failed to agree merger terms last year. A Stead & Simpson official declined to comment on the rumours yesterday. A spokesman for Oliver said he had "nothing at all to add" to the announcement.

Other possible trade buyers include Clarks, the country's biggest shoe retailer and Stylo, the company which trades its Barrats, Bacons and Stylo Instep brands through concessions in Dorothy Perkins and New Look stores.

In May, Doug Rogers, Oliver's current chairman, said trading conditions were tough "and are expected to remain so". The group had earlier reported a widening full-year loss of £2.9m.

Mr Rogers appointed in October 1999, replaced Alan Cole, who took over from Denis Cassidy after a shareholder revolt.

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