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May 16, 2002

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND: Australian Woolworths interested in buying NZ counterpart

Roger Corbett, the chief executive officer of leading Australian retailer Woolworths, has told reporters that his group is interested in Woolworths New Zealand and is reviewing its position in that regard. Woolworths New Zealand, an operating subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Dairy Farmers International (DFI), is understood to be an acquisition target for Perth-based Foodland Associated, which already has an operation called Progressive in New Zealand. However, industry onlookers have long speculated that Woolworths Australia may be interested in bidding too.

Roger Corbett, the chief executive officer of leading Australian retailer Woolworths, has told reporters that his group is interested in Woolworths New Zealand and is reviewing its position in that regard.

Woolworths New Zealand, an operating subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Dairy Farmers International (DFI), is understood to be an acquisition target for Perth-based Foodland Associated, which already has an operation called Progressive in New Zealand. However, industry onlookers have long speculated that Woolworths Australia may be interested in bidding too.

However, Corbett denied there was any truth in a local media report that Woolworths (Australia)’s chief financial officer Bill Wavish was already in Hong Kong starting acquisition talks with DFI. He said simply: “We have a close relationship with Dairy Farm and an ongoing area of cooperation wherever we can.”

That said, if Woolworths wants a piece of the action it may have to move fast. Last month Foodland won a legal appeal to the British privy council leaves the path open for it to bid for Woolworths New Zealand, overturning an earlier ruling.

Woolworths NZ operates some 80 stores and is believed to be worth approximately NZ$700m (US$321.3m).

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