Ardeshir Naghshineth, the largest shareholder in Woolworths, has backed the struggling retailer’s management team in rejecting a £50m takeover bid from Iceland founder Malcolm Walker.
Iranian property investor Naghshineth, said to be worth an estimated £500m, has a 10.2 per cent stake in the firm and was yesterday reported to consider Walker’s bid as being “negative” for Woolworths.
He said: “Walker is well respected but the board rejected the bid and rightly so. It’s not a good deal for Woolies or shareholders.”
Walker’s initial proposal was to take Woolworth’s 815 stores but leave the parent company with most of its £120m debt and a £100m pension deficit.
Nashshineth believes Woolworths’ management can still turn the company around and that there is greater value in the company than Walker’s offer suggests. Naghshineth is also thought to be considering a rival bid, and was yesterday reported to have said he is interested in the business but could not comment further.
Despite rejecting Walker’s offer, Woolworths chairman Richard North, is under pressure from shareholders to negotiate further talks with Walker who may yet improve his offer.
Chief executive Steven Johnson, the former head of DIY chain Focus who was hired earlier this month by North to lead a revival of the retail chain, is set to start work today and is expected to reveal his turnaround plans by Christmas.