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Aeon makes play for control of Daiei

Latest grab comes on heels of Peacock buy

JIJI

Retail giant Aeon Co. is looking to become the top shareholder of Daiei Inc. by buying shares in the retailer from the major trading house Marubeni Corp., sources said.

Aeon has already approached Marubeni, which is Daiei’s biggest shareholder with a stake of about 29 percent, the sources said.

Aeon, currently the rival retailer’s second-largest shareholder with a 20 percent stake, may launch a tender offer to acquire a majority stake, the sources said.

If Aeon takes control of Daiei, the deal might vault its group sales beyond ¥6 trillion, according to estimates.

The move is part of Aeon’s efforts to boost its retail network. It is already set to acquire supermarket chain Peacock Stores Ltd. from J. Front Retailing Co. on April 1.

Marubeni, which became Daiei’s top shareholder in 2006, has been failing to meet its expectations for synergy between its food and department store operations, the sources said.

Still, Aeon may face a tough time negotiating with Marubeni because the trading house is reluctant to sell its entire stake in Daiei, the sources said.

Daiei has been under heavy competitive pressure from both rival chains and convenience stores.

For the business year ended in February, Daiei expects to log a group net loss of ¥5 billion, on sales of ¥843 billion, down 3.0 percent from the previous year, despite swinging back into the black during the year.