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Commission eyes Farmers

By Deborah Hill Cone

Friday 11th July 2003

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The Commerce Commission confirmed yesterday it was monitoring the sale of department store Farmers, as its supplier Fisher & Paykel threatens to take action if the chain is sold to rival Pacific Retail Group.

F&P operates an exclusive dealer network (EDA), which was sanctioned by a famous High Court judgment in the 1990s, and PRG's outlets Noel Leeming and Bond & Bond are not part of it.

F&P has stated it will not supply Farmers if it is sold to PRG.

Bids to buy the chain closed on Monday with would-be buyers complaining access to information during the due diligence period "has been like pulling teeth."

The frontrunners are considered to be PRG, an F&P-backed bid in a consortium with a mystery retailer, or a management buyout backed by a venture capital fund.

Grant Samuel & Associates' investment vehicle GS Private Equity has been identified as a bidder although none of the potential buyers are speaking publicly about the process.

Retail sources said Farmers was trading significantly below expectations and that would affect the price, which has been suggested to be in the $250-350 million bracket.

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