The Commercial Tribunal of Antwerp agrees with the trade unions’ statement that Dutch wholesaler Sligro has put forward the best bid for the Belgian branch of Metro. A competing bid by current CEO Vincent Nolf is deemed to be too far below the actual value of the stores involved. A decision will follow by Wednesday at the latest.
Today, the court considered the four bids for Makro Cash & Carry Belgium: the candidates were given the opportunity to defend their case, in the presence of the trade unions and hundreds of employees. Nolf received some particularly critical questions about his plan for a management buyout, Belgian business newspaper De Tijd reports.
The CEO is offering 110,000 euros for ten stores and says he can guarantee three years of job security for more than 600 employees (some 100 more than Sligro would take over), which he says would be worth another 39 to 100 million euros. However, he was forced today to admit that he does not have found the funding to actually guarantee that guarantee. Indeed, two days ago, Nolf told unions he was still looking for co-financiers. It is also unclear why the valuation of the work guarantee has suddenly been raised from the previous 30 – 50 million euros.
The CEO’s bid is a lot lower even than the estimated liquidation value of the shops, which means it may not even comply with the rules at all, liberal trade union ACLVB reports to newspaper HLN. Legally, any bid must be at least equal to that liquidation value, although the value of the job guarantee was debated in court.
What about competition?
Sligro would then be a far better option, with its sixty-million-euro bid – especially it said it was willing to drop the Ghent store from its bid without reducing the amount offered. That would come in handy for Van Zon, which is also interested in that store and and has offered 400,000 euros for it. Also, if the takeover is greenlit, the Dutch hospitality wholesaler would already be ready to start the conversion in a matter of days.
However, other competitors are worried about two such major players joining forces. Horeca Totaal – itself eager to take over the Liège Metro store – hopes Sligro will have to divest said store in the event of a merger because of the threat to the free market. However, the competition watchdog had already said in advance that it would not stop the takeover.
And what about Makro?
Although the delegated judge has stated that “Sligro Food Group’s offer in combination with the offer of Groep Horeca Van Zon offers the best conditions in terms of price, employment and financial strength”, the final decision will only follow after the weekend, on Wednesday at the latest.
For Metro’s cash&carry sibling Makro, the uncertainty will remain a bit longer. With the certainty of no acquisition candidates, the current Luxembourg-based holding owner has to decide whether to proceed with a liquidation sale itself or file for bankruptcy in January. At the moment, as in-store clearance sales are still planned throughout December. Staff would also continue to work for the whole month.