Woolies wants Coles, Harveys says ‘good luck’

By Sarah Falson

SYDNEY: Woolworths is the latest retailer to voice interest in bidding for the Coles Group, in a joint deal with British retail phenomenon, Tesco, but Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey isn’t convinced they’ll succeed.

The joint-bid could see them offer high above Wesfarmer’s $20 billion bid, which is a leap ahead of their original $18.2 billion offer in consortium with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

According to reports, Woolworths is especially interested in Coles’ Target, Kmart and Officeworks businesses, with Harvey Norman also voicing interest in Officeworks last month.

In an exclusive interview with Harvey, Current.com.au was able to ascertain that Harvey has no designs on Target or Kmart.

“I don’t want them. Someone else can find out what’s wrong with them – not me," said Harvey, who also voiced his apprehension at Woolworths’ bid for Officeworks.

“Good luck to him,” he said, referring to Woolworths’ CEO, Michael Luscombe.

Harvey could not confirm speculation that he will launch a rival office supplies business if he misses out on purchasing Officeworks, however he hasn’t ruled it out.

Harvey went so far as to discuss possible names for the business, suggesting Harvey Norman Office Depot or Harvey Norman Officemax, combining names of the two major office supplies resellers in the US – Officemax and Office Depot.

"Officeworks was just a direct copy of Office Depot,” said Harvey.

“Officeworks has a monopolistic station here, and if I couldn’t buy it I may think about launching my own [rival business].”

Tesco announced last August that it was individually interested in buying Coles Myer, before the Myer brand was sold to private equity firm Newbridge Capital for $1.4 billion in March this year.

The major retailer has spent the last ten years expanding its empire, with stores opening in Japan, Thailand, China, Malaysia and South Korea. A move into Australia has long been expected.

But Harvey has some opinions of his own about being a successful retail giant, and hasn’t yet abandoned his interest in Officeworks.

“Pretend you’re a very small retailer, and be a good boy and work hard,” said Harvey.

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