Kohl’s Chairman Peter Boneparth said on CNBC Friday that the proposed offer price was too low and he didn’t have conviction that the deal would close.
The Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based retailer must now convince Wall Street that it can succeed on its own, but it won’t be easy. The company slashed its profit and sales outlook for the year in May, citing higher expenses and weaker consumer demand. On Friday, Kohl’s said it now expects second-quarter sales to fall by a high-single-digit percentage, compared with a prior forecast for a low-single-digit decline relative to last year.
Kohl’s management has faced intense activist pressure to sell. Sycamore Partners and a suitor backed by hedge fund Starboard Value LP had engaged with the retailer about a potential deal, and while it was unclear how much Sycamore was willing to pay, Acacia Research Corp., the Starboard-backed suitor, had offered $64 a share, or about $9 billion. In May, Kohl’s fended off an attempt by investor Macellum Capital Management to overhaul the board.
Representatives for Starboard and Macellum weren’t immediately available for comment.
Although Kohl’s blamed the deal talks falling apart on the tough economic environment, Morningstar analyst David Swartz said this doesn’t tell the whole story. The retailer is faring worse than peers like Macy’s Inc. despite having a low-cost reputation that should be helping it amid the highest US inflation in 40 years.
“You have to question whether the current management will be in place for much longer after the last six months,” said Swartz. “Investors saw a sales process that went nowhere, a brutal proxy fight with management taking a lot of hits and consistently poor results from Kohl’s.”
Kohl’s said Friday that it’s taking another look at options for portions of its real-estate portfolio. Those assets had made the retailer attractive to bidders since they are separate from shopping malls, which have seen a decline in foot traffic.