Staples Raises Bid in Effort to Crack Dutch Market

U.S. office supplies retailer Staples raised its all-cash bid for Dutch business products group Corporate Express for the second time to 1.7 billion euros ($2.65 billion) on Tuesday.

Staples said in a statement it was offering 9.15 euros a share, up from the 8 euros it bid last month, and said its new offer was contingent on Corporate Express shareholders rejecting the Dutch company's plan to buy French peer Lyreco.

Earlier on Tuesday, Corporate Express urged its shareholders to vote for its 1.7 billion euro takeover of Lyreco -- seen as a defence against Staples' unsolicited bid -- and reiterated its view that the earlier Staples bid undervalued the company.

Staples said holders of about 23.3 percent of shares, including hedge fund Centaurus, York Capital and Halcyon, had committed to tender their stakes, and it lowered the minimum acceptance threshold to 51 percent.

Corporate Express shares closed 6.8 percent higher on Tuesday at 8.93 euros.

The Dutch company, one of the world's largest office products wholesalers, announced on May 21 it would buy privately owned Lyreco to create the largest business-to-business distributor of office supplies in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific with combined sales of more than 7.8 billion euros.

The Lyreco deal would make Corporate Express relatively less exposed to the U.S. economy, where its sales fell last year and where rival Office Depot has warned of weaker demand.

Hedge funds and investors have pressed Corporate Express, one of the world's largest office products wholesalers, to seek a buyer or to break up due to problems with shrinking sales and margins in the United States, its key market.

Staples originally bid 7.25 euros per share in February.

A tie-up between a retailer and wholesaler of office supplies would make strategic sense and could lead to big savings at a time when both companies are trying to deal with a downturn in the U.S. economy, analysts have said.