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Archive for Friday, June 26, 1998

SAKS CONSIDERING SALEMERGER

June 26, 1998

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— Saks Fifth Avenue is having a private sale of sorts.

One of the classiest names in retailing has put itself up for sale, but the offer is good only to a select group of potential suitors.

The New York-based department store chain said Thursday it was exploring a sale or merger with a number of companies, but declined to say whether any bidders have come forward.

Analysts, who say Saks could fetch more than $2 billion for its 95 stores, expect the competition to be fierce for the well-established, high-end retailer. Among those who may consider a bid include Hong Kong-based Dickson Concepts and Saks rival U.S. retailer Neiman Marcus.

``Saks is a signature that everybody wants in their portfolio,'' said Walter Loeb, who runs the retail consulting firm Loeb Associates.

Wall Street applauded Thursday's news, sending stock in Saks' parent company, Saks Holdings, up $2.69, or almost 11 percent, to $27.50.

While the decision to put Saks up for sale came from the retailer's board of directors, the company also reportedly came under pressure from Investcorp International, an investment bank based in Bahrain which owns a majority stake in Saks.

``Saks has enjoyed and continues to enjoy the rocket ride on Wall Street. The economy is good and consumers are buying at high-end stores,'' said Kurt Barnard, a retail consultant and president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report in Upper Montclair, N.J. ``Investcorp may feel that this is the right time to sell because the good times can't get much better.''

Saks was founded in 1867, as a privately-held company that was part of the now-defunct Gimbel Brothers chain. In 1924, Horace Saks and Bernard Gimbel opened the landmark Fifth Avenue store.

Among the companies mentioned as candidates to bid for Saks is Neiman Marcus, a fierce competitor of Saks but one that could possibly find some cost savings by purchasing Saks. Federated Department Stores Inc., which owns Bloomingdale's and Macy's, and May Department Stores Co., owner of Lord & Taylor, may also consider a Saks acquisition.

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