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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Retailer woos troubled ex-M&S supplier
baird website
William Baird has never recovered from losing M&S
William Baird, the textile firm deserted by Marks & Spencer three years ago. is facing a 17.9m buyout from womenswear designer Jacques Vert.

The offer - of shares in Jacques Vert, rather than cash - values the company at 15.25 pence a share, barely more than the 15 pence value at which William Baird stock started the day.

William Baird has been in difficulties since 1999, when a decision by Marks & Spencer to ditch its UK suppliers in favour of cheaper Asian and African textile production ended 30 years of collaboration.

William Baird's management advised its shareholders to hold off on agreeing to anything until it had had time to talk the offer over with its financial advisers, London bank Lazard.

Left in the lurch

William Baird's path since being stood up by M&S has been a rocky one.

In late 2000, the firm was forced to sell off its menswear unit to a management buyout while attempting to organise a bigger management takeover deal for itself - a deal which eventually fell through.

The move was part of an effort to move away from manufacturing and into selling its own retail brands.

But sales are still falling and losses widening, and losing a 54m compensation case against M&S in April last year.

"William Baird's management has struggled with this business for too long," said Bill Reid, Jacques Vert's chairman, adding that he already had support from shareholders owning 47.6% of his target.

Both companies' shares ended the day at 14.25 pence, down 0.5 pence for Jacques Vert and 0.75 pence for William Baird.

See also:

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