LONDON — Steinhoff International Holdings said on Friday that it had increased its stake in its takeover target Darty to just over 20 percent as a frantic bidding war heats up between its French unit and Groupe Fnac for the French electronics and appliance retailer.
The announcement came a day after Conforama, Steinhoff’s French household goods retail unit, and Fnac made a series of escalating bids for Darty.
Conforama has so far made the highest bid for Darty, offering to pay 860 million pounds, or $1.2 billion.
On Friday, Conforama said that a Steinhoff unit, Steinhoff Finance Holdings, had acquired a further 4.81 million shares of Darty and now owns about 20.4 percent of the retailer.
Fnac said on Friday that it was “currently considering” its position and urged Darty’s shareholders to take no action. Fnac said on Thursday that it had acquired just over 5 percent of Darty.
The fight for Darty began in March, when Steinhoff of South Africa swooped in and offered to buy the retailer at a price that exceeded the one in a previous merger agreement with Fnac. In November, Fnac had offered to pay £558 million for Darty.
In March, Steinhoff abandoned its pursuit of the Home Retail Group as it faced a separate and potentially lengthy battle with J Sainsbury, one of Britain’s largest grocery store chains.
It instead agreed to acquire Darty with a cash offer of 125 pence a share, or about £673 million, beating Fnac at the time in a race to acquire the company.
On Wednesday, Conforama said it was sweetening its offer to 138 pence a share after Steinhoff Finance Holdings took a 19.4 percent stake in Darty.
The next day, Conforama and Fnac each tried to gain favor over their competitor by publicly announcing a series of escalating offers – four, in total – for the company.
Fnac eventually settled on a price of 153 pence a share on its second offer of the day, but was trumped by Conforama, which said it was willing to pay 160 pence a share, or about £860 million.
The frantic bidding sent Darty’s shares up 23 percent for the day in London trading on Thursday.
Darty’s shares were up less than 1 percent in afternoon trading in London on Friday.
For its part, Darty said on Thursday that its board of directors would carefully consider the offers and “provide further advice to Darty shareholders in due course.”
Darty operates about 400 stores in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It reported revenue of more than 3.5 billion euros, or about $4 billion, in its 2014-15 fiscal year.
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