Baring Asia seeks to delist Singapore furniture retailer(3)

Baring Private Equity Asia, together with a Kuwaiti investor, is offering to buy the remaining shares it does not hold in Courts, a Singapore-listed furniture retailer with operations in Thailand.

Baring Private Equity Asia and Kuwaiti company Topaz are buying 54 percent of Singapore-listed Courts Group in a transaction that values the furniture and household appliances retailer at over $100 million ($67.5 million; €50.3 million).

The partnership, Singapore Retail Group, is offering to buy the remaining shares at 64.5 Singapore cents a share to delist the company, according to a statement.

The mandatory unconditional cash offer was triggered by SRG’s acquisition yesterday of a controlling 54.16 percent stake in the listed retailer from Courts Group International at $56.2 million, according to the offer document.

Courts started out as a furniture retailer in Singapore in 1974 with a one-store showroom in the city’s central shopping district.

It also operates in Thailand via a subsidiary. Courts Singapore reported a post-tax loss of S$17.5 million for the full year to 31 March 2007.

Trading liquidity of the company shares has been low, with an average 69,000 shares changing hands each day over the past 12 months, representing approximately 0.09 percent of the free float shares, according to an offer document.

Baring and Topaz said in the offer document the historically low liquidity is likely to continue and that the buyout provides shareholders the opportunity to realise their investment for cash.

The offer price represents a discount of approximately 0.8 percent over the last transacted price of S$0.65 on 6 June, or a discount of 3.3 percent over the volume weighted average price of S$0.667 for the six month period prior to the announcement date.

Baring and Topaz are also buying a 50.1 percent interest in Malaysia-listed Courts Mammoth Berhad; a 20 percent stake in Memphis King, the holding company of Courts Megastore Thailand, whose 80 percent is held by the Singapore-listed entity. Courts Mammoth has retail operations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Baring and its Kuwaiti partner has also agreed to acquire brand rights or the use of several retail brands including “Courts” and “AK ITA” across a number of Asian countries for $15 million. Baring is investing from a $490 million fund raised last year.