Panel dismisses GUS complaints against Argos

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The Independent Online
THE TAKEOVER PANEL yesterday unanimously dismissed the remaining complaints registered by Great Universal Stores regarding claims made by the former Argos team during its successful pounds 1.9bn bid for Argos last year.

The move follows a similar ruling last month under which the panel universally dismissed a GUS appeal against certain procedural rulings of its executive. It means Lord Wolfson, the GUS chairman, is unlikely to take the issue any further. However, he is currently on holiday and was not available for comment yesterday.

There were three outstanding complaints made by GUS. It was unhappy about claims made by the former Argos board on its plans for a home delivery service and a comparison of trading in its fledgling Dutch operations with those in Ireland. It was also unhappy about a success fee payable by Argos to Schroders, its financial adviser, in the event of a successful rejection of a bid.

The panel dismissed all GUS complaints unanimously. However, it has instructed its executive to consider whether an agreement to pay a success fee should be disclosed in the bid process. As is its usual practice the panel has instructed the executive to prepare a position paper on the issue. GUS said it welcomed the review but declined to say how much it has spent on fighting the case.

Lord Wolfson has previously said he wanted the panel to "show the red card" to the former Argos directors, led by Stuart Rose who is now chief executive of Booker, the troubled cash and carry chain. Lord Wolfson had also threatened to take legal action against the Argos team, including its advisers, and take the matter to the DTI and the House of Lords.

GUS has denied that it was fighting the battle because it believed in retrospect that it overpaid for Argos when it increased its cash offer from pounds 1.6bn to pounds 1.9bn.