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Thursday, January 21, 1999 Published at 18:00 GMT

Business: The Company File

Sears turns to Green

A retail whizzkid sets his sights on resurrecting an old retailing icon

UK retailer Sears has succumbed to the takeover bid of entrepreneur Philip Green, accepting his latest offer.

The BBC's John Moylan: "Sears' position in British retailing seemed unassailable"
The increased bid made by Mr Green's January Investments of £548m ($904m) has been unanimously supported by the Sears board.

Sears, a name in UK retail for 108 years, operates the Miss Selfridge, Richard and Wallis and Warehouse chains and the Freemans catologue shopping business.

Once-proud name

Sears has struggled for most of the 1990s. It once owned the Selfridges department store in central London, as well as a string of shoe shops which once gave it a quarter of the UK shoe market.

[ image: Freemans sell-off now appears inevitable]
Freemans sell-off now appears inevitable
The sweetened offer, the fourth by January Investments, values Sears shares at 359 pence, up from an its last 340 pence per share offer. Sears shares closed up 7 pence at 354.5p with the deal announced in the final minutes of trade.

Philips & Drew Fund Management, Sears' largest shareholder with 22%, has been pushing for acceptance of the increased offer among other shareholders.

Under the terms of the deal, the only thing that could now prevent it is a competing offer at not less than 360 pence per Sears share.

Freemans sale

Philip Green is a noted retail specialist and his January Investments is also backed by the wealthy Barclay twins, among Britain's richest businessmen.

Mr Green targeted Sears in December saying the company was pursuing a "flawed strategy" and that Freemans should be sold off.

Retail analysts now say the mail order business is likely to be sold quickly, with German group Otto Versand the leading contender.

However, a bid by UK mail order rival N Brown is also expected.

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