Overseas `white knight' could rescue Argos

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The Independent Online
City analysts are divided over whether a "white knight" will ride to the rescue of Argos, the catalogue retailer battling against a hostile pounds 1.6bn takeover bid from Great Universal Stores.

A long list of potential suitors included Kingfisher and a string of continental retailers such as Otto Versand and Quelle of Germany and La Redoute of France. "It is more likely to be an overseas operator looking to move into the UK," said Mark Josephson of Panmure Gordon.

Among potential UK suitors, Kingfisher is considered highly unlikely to enter the fray and Littlewoods is not thought to have sufficient funds.

"I regard a white knight as extremely unlikely," said John Richards of NatWest Securities. He pointed out that La Redoute had just made a big acquisition in office supplies in France, while Otto Versand is a private company that tends to be very wary of expensive deals. "No one else can offer quite the GUS capability on mail order," he said.

Analysts suggest GUS may need to raise its offer price by another 10 per cent from 570p to 620p-630p to be successful. But some institutional investors say the bid is far from a foregone conclusion.

One fund manager said: "I'd quite like to see it stay independent. It has been quite successful over the years." Another said Argos might have attractions to other bidders. Argos shares closed 5p lower yesterday at 625p. GUS shares edged 3p higher to 765p.