Family Dollar Stores (FDO) rejected a $9 billion buyout offer from Dollar General (DG) and issued a sharp rebuke to accusations its CEO favors a smaller bid from Dollar Tree (DLTR) because it would allow him to keep his job.
Family Dollar, the second-largest dollar store in the United States, said it believed a deal with its larger rival would be unlikely to win antitrust approval despite a promise by Dollar General to close up to 700 stores.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-We will not jeopardize the Dollar Tree deal for a transaction with Dollar General that has a high likelihood of not closing due to antitrust considerations.%"We will not jeopardize the Dollar Tree deal for a transaction with Dollar General that has a high likelihood of not closing due to antitrust considerations," said Ed Garden, an independent director on Family Dollar's board.
The formal rejection came a day after Dollar General Chief Executive Officer Rick Dreiling questioned whether his counterpart at Family Dollar, Howard Levine, was serving his own interests in supporting Dollar Tree's $8.5 billion offer.
Levine responded Thursday by saying that Dreiling's letter "contained blatant mischaracterizations and did nothing to address the antitrust issues in Dollar General's proposal."
Dollar stores have been a popular choice for U.S. consumers in a weak economy. Competition to woo penny-pinching customers has intensified, particularly as Walmart Stores (WMT) has opened more small-format stores.
The U.S. market for dollar stores grew 46 percent to $48.2 billion between 2008 and 2013 and is expected to grow 18 percent in the next five years, according to Euromonitor International.
A combined Dollar General-Family Dollar would have nearly 20,000 stores across 46 U.S. states and annual sales in excess of $28 billion.
Dollar Tree and Family Dollar combined would have 13,000 stores across the United States and Canada and $18 billion in annual sales -- enough to vault it ahead of Dollar General as the biggest discount retailer in North America.
Rahul Sharma, managing director of investment advisory Neev Capital, said antitrust issues were not insurmountable given the much bigger size of retailers such as Walmart and Kroger (KR), which also cater to low- and middle-income consumers.
Combined, the three dollar chains' annual sales total about $35 billion -- less than a tenth of Walmart's $473 billion.
"It is not clear to us why the antitrust concerns could not be resolved via methods such as store divestitures," said S&P Capital IQ analyst Efraim Levy. "It might be that antitrust was not the full reason."
Certainly, the Dollar Tree cash-and-stock bid is friendlier to Family Dollar's management. Levine, son of Family Dollar's founder, would remain CEO of the Matthews, North Carolina-based company were it to be bought by Dollar Tree.
Were Dollar General to buy Family Dollar, Levine is expected to lose his job, although this has not been confirmed.
"The Dollar General offer, while it clearly makes sense in the form of synergies, was unfriendly to Family Dollar," said Joan Storms, retail analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Activist investor Carl Icahn, who has whittled down his stake in Family Dollar to 3.6 percent as of July 30 after buying 9.4 percent, has also questioned whether Levine's future could have influenced the decision to go with Dollar Tree.
Dreiling, in his letter late Wednesday, alleged that he had been led astray by Levine in talks on a potential buyout during a meeting on June 19. In response, Family Dollar said representatives of Dollar General "stated that they were not interested in pursuing a strategic transaction at that time."
Shares of Dollar General were down 0.4 percent at $63.53 in noon trading. Family Dollar's shares were down 0.3 percent at $79.54.
Shares of Dollar Tree, which also reported a 2.6 percent fall in quarterly profit on Thursday as its costs rose, were down 1.1 percent at $54.38.
17 Tips for Saving on Back-to-School Shopping
Family Dollar Rejects Dollar General's $8.95 Billion Bid
These days, many schools list the supplies they expect you buy on their website. That will help you get organized, and keep you from having to guess what the teacher expects your child to have. Use the list to stay disciplined and avoid making impulse buys. Also, don't forget to budget for after-school activities, athletic fees and equipment.
Make sure you control the expectations game with your kids before your get to the stores -- otherwise your purchases can easily get out of hand. Have that parent-child chat in advance, and determine which items are necessities and which are go on the "wish list." Doing this could reduce some in-store stress when your offspring starting dumping items into the shopping cart.
Before hitting the stores or logging in online, do an inventory of your own shelves. You'll probably find lots of notebooks, binders and other items that have plenty of life left in them.
Just as with holiday shopping, all the major retailers are trying to lure you in with "doorbuster" specials. Those loss-leaders can be real bargains, if you avoid loading up on all of the other items that are not on sale. You might find great deals on pens at CVS (CVS) or Walgreens (WAG), for example, but most of their other back-to-school items are priced considerably higher than you'll find at big box retailers such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT). Some sale items are incredibly cheap, such as notebooks for just 17 cents.
It pays to wait for the end of August when summer clearance sales and back-to-school promotions converge. Labor Day sales are among the best times to buy electronics, including laptops. The best shopping days of this season will run from Aug. 27 through Sept. 1 (Labor Day).
If you have the time and the inclination to spread out your shopping over several weeks and by going to more than one store or one website, you can save a bundle. Follow the ads online and in newspaper circulars from week to week, and jump into action when you spot a really good deal.
If you don't have the time or energy to hop from one place to another to take advantage of all of the best sale days, go to Walmart or Target and get just about everything you need at reasonable prices -- either in the store or online. Walmart offers 30 percent more back-to-school items online this year compared to last year. Both big-box chains are offering price matching programs, some of which you can still use after making your purchase. At Walmart.com, you can enter an ID code listed on the in-store receipt and get a gift card rebate if the company's prices were more expensive than advertised prices at competitors.
Sixteen states are offering a back-to-school sales tax break this year, down from 18 that did so in 2013. The savings of between 3 percent and 7 percent usually applies to clothing, footwear and some big-ticket items such as computers. However, don't be lured into buying something that you wouldn't ordinarily purchase just because you can save on the taxes.
It seems like almost every day, new apps arrive that are designed to help you find the best deals, compare in-store prices and make shopping lists -- and they're free. Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner allows you scan an item's barcode and find prices from other stores and online sites. Other apps to check out include Favado, The Find, ShopAdvisor, SaleSorter and PriceGrabber. Some stores also offer their own app, such as Target's Cartwheel. All are available on iOS and Android.
No, your sixth grader probably won't fit into most of his or her fifth-grade wardrobe, but some of those hand-me-downs from their older siblings will still be looking good. And don't be afraid to ask friends or relatives what they have that their kids have outgrown. Also, when you go through your own stuff, you may find bushel or two of clothes you can sell at the local consignment store. It takes limited effort on your part, and when your items sell, you pocket 30 percent to 50 percent of the sale price.
No need to rush: You don't have to buy an entire school wardrobe before the start of first period. Buy up summer sale items between now and Labor Day, but wait until the end of September or early October to shop for fall clothes. You can not only capture sale prices on both, but your kids will have time to see what their friends are wearing, and you'll avoid buying some items that they'll never be caught dead wearing.
You'll always want the option of returning an item. You may find that your kid doesn't need it after all, or that the blouse doesn't look as good at home as it did in the store. Know how long you have to return an item to a given store, and keep your receipts organized. Also, some stores allow shoppers to bring an item back and get a price-differential refund if it gets marked down after you left the store.
We want our kids to dress as well as their friends do, and to have the newest and fastest electronics. Know when it's OK to skip it: You may find that the latest laptops cost hundreds of dollars more than the just-previous versions, but that you don't really need all of the newest bells and whistles. Also, buying a refurbished laptop could save you a bundle.
Buying a dozen boxes of No. 2 pencils can be cost-efficient -- if you run an office. If not, you're over-buying just to save a few pennies per item, but in the end you're wasting money. Don't buy in bulk just for the sake of deal.
This is good advice 365 days a year. Don't put anything on a credit card if you aren't certain you'll be able to pay it off in full when the bill comes. Any savings you reaped by being a smart shopper will disappear into the APR. Also, avoid the temptation to sign up for store credit cards, unless they offer you rewards well beyond the initial purchase discount.