Normans up stake in Warehouse
David and Anne Norman, the owners of the retail group which controls Farmers and Whitcoulls, have nabbed a strategic stake in the country’s largest listed retailer, Warehouse Group. The Normans’ James Pascoe group has taken advantage of a slump in Warehouse Group shares to nudge its holding up to 5.15 per cent.
James Pascoe acquired 544,964 shares on market on Monday for about $1.65 million, implying it paid $3.03 a share. Warehouse shares slipped as low as $2.99 during trading yesterday, before eventually closing up 5c at $3.08 _ a 17-month low.
The purchase amounts to only about 0.2 per cent of Warehouse’s stock, meaning James Pascoe was already close to the 5 per cent threshold where a holding must be disclosed to the NZX.
Although the 5 per cent represents a significant stake in the company, analysts were sceptical there could be more to the purchase.
Coriolis Research analyst Tim Morris said it was unlikely anything would change at The Warehouse for some time.
“Nothing is going to change at The Warehouse until the larger shareholder [founder Stephen Tindall] decides he wants to sell. And Woolworths Australia would like to buy and that’s been in the cards for five years or so. But Foodstuffs also have 10 per cent,” Morris said.
“There’s two people in there that can block anyone else from buying. There’s an owner who has a major stake and then there’s already two other major shareholders,” he said.
“The share price is also down dramatically from when Foodstuffs and Woolworths bought in so they would have to eat some pretty humble pie to sell out at the current price. More likely they would look to bolster their portfolio in other areas, be it through nio shares or others on the market.”
Morris said the purchase was more likely to be an opportunistic buy at the low end of the market.
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Morris went on to justify his stance: “They would be hard pushed to get past the Commerce Commission, if you own Farmers, you’re never going to be able to buy The Warehouse.”
The Normans’ retail empire includes department store chain Farmers Trading Co, the Whitcoulls bookstores, Pascoes the Jewellers, Stewart Dawson and Goldman jewellery retailers, and Prouds the Jewellers, Angus & Coote and Goldmark jewellery chains in Australia.
The couple ranked 18th equal on the NBR Rich List last year, with a fortune estimated at $500 million.