Final bids are in for the Borders book-stores and the new owner of the $100 million-plus chain may be known soon.
A&R Whitcoulls seems certain to be one of the final contenders for the 20 Australian and four New Zealand Borders stores. Dymocks is another business believed to be still keen. Other parties cited have included Berkelouw Books and possibly large general retailers such as Woolworths.
Whitcoulls' New Zealand rival Paper Plus confirmed a month ago that it had "had a look" at the Borders business as well, but it was not clear yesterday whether it had proceeded to the final bidding phase.
The sale is being handled out of Australia by KPMG Corporate Finance. Executive director Luke Lawrentschuk said he could not comment on the process or when the successful bidder might be announced.
A&R Whitcoulls, which has 65 Whitcoulls stores in New Zealand and 180 Angus & Robertson stores in Australia, has been owned since 2004 by private equity group Pacific Equity Partners. PEP has been known to be keen to either sell or list the company within the next 12 months and may view acquisition of Borders as a way of fattening the whole business for a sale.
In applying for Commerce Commission approval to buy the Borders assets, A&R Whitcoulls attempted to soothe any concerns about possible loss of competition in the book retailing market. It said that in recent times Whitcoulls had lost market share to Paper Plus as a result of additional advertising spending by its rival.
The commission has a November 21 deadline for deciding on the Whitcoulls application.