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Wesfarmers Receives Support From Major Coles Shareholder

Australia's Wesfarmers has secured the support of privately owned Hedley Group, a shareholder of Australia's Coles Group, for its A$19.7 billion (US$16 billion) takeover of the retail giant.

Hedley Group said late on Sunday that it had agreed to vote its 17.9 million Coles shares -- 1.5% of Coles' stock -- in support of Wesfarmers' proposed deal, lifting the Perth-based conglomerate's voting control to 12.8%.

Hedley, a property developer, said in a statement it had agreed not to support any rival proposal.

Wesfarmers emerged as a surprise contender for Coles on Tuesday after it took voting control of an 11.3% stake and later announced an indicative A$16.47 cash-and-scrip offer for the retailer, which put itself up for sale in February.

The offer is Asia Pacific's largest private equity buyout, overtaking a A$10.5 billion bid by a private equity consortium for Qantas Airways, market data compiler Dealogic says. Private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts said it was still in the race for Coles.