Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Warehouse: Outcomes of Commerce Commision Decision

The Warehouse Group [WHS.NZ]watchers will know that the appeal case of Supermarket operators Foodstuffs and Woolworth's being allowed to bid for the company started yesterday in front of the Commerce Commission in the High Court at Wellington, after a decision barring either from taking over discount chain The Warehouse was brought down in June.

You will also know that the possible outcome of a Commerce Commission decision is probably going to be far from clear cut and is unlikely to provide investors or speculators with a clear focus on which to base any further investment.

My intention here is to outline what decisions the Commerce Commission possibly going make because it just isn't clear which way the cash register will open. It could go either way, with or without conditions but with the added confusion of The Warehouse itself being involved in the appeal.

What I would like to point out are the possible permutations that any decision by the Commerce Commission might have for the parties involved and investors in The Warehouse.

If the decision goes the way of both Foodstuffs and Woolworths Australia [WOW.ASX] being allowed to bid for the Warehouse then clearly this will be the best outcome for investors as there will be a fierce bidding war in which Woolworth's is likely to be the winner because its pockets are deeper than Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and that Mexican Billionaire who just made the top of the B club, combined.

Also with a open yes decision by the Commission it may leave the possibility of either Foodstuffs or Woollies partnering with Stephen Tindall to buy the company.

A no decision for both would of course lead to another appeal and would also leave the aisle open for Stephen Tindall, the majority owner of the Warehouse, to reignite his bid to launch a buyback of the company in conjunction with a private equity player or perhaps a new grocery entrant.

Woolworth's could be allowed to buy The Warehouse simply because its market share is significantly smaller than Foodstuffs.

Issues involved over domination of retail market segments should any of these decisions become reality may also rear its head. Selling of conflicting parts of any merged business that may cause competition issues may also be part of a Commerce Commission decision.

Whatever the outcome, the decision by the Commerce Commission is going to be a difficult one for them to make and is going to take a long time.

Since the sitting began on Tuesday 23 October the market has given the share price a boost by 20c to $5.65 today.

Disclosure: I own WHS shares

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