By James Wells

NEWCASTLE: Bell IXL Investments Limited has made an offer to all shareholders of Betta Stores Limited to purchase up to 20 per cent of the company’s fully paid ordinary shares.

“The company is pleased to announce an offer to all shareholders of Betta Stores Limited to purchase their fully paid ordinary shares in Betta,” Bell IXL executive chairman and manaing director, Massimo Cellante said in a statement to the Newcastle Stock Exchange (NSX) today.

BSL shares are listed on the NSX however trading has been halted since 16 March 2006.

For every three shares in BSL, Bell IXL is offering 18 cents cash and one fully paid ordinary share in its company. Bell IXL is currently trading at approximately 20 cents.

The company has prepared an offer document that will be mailed out to Betta shareholders prior to the close of business on Friday of this week.

“The offer is not a takeover bid or announcement of a takeover bid in respect of Betta and the offer has been structured so that the voting power of the company in Betta will not exceed 20 per cent,” the document says.

“By accepting the offer you will continue to have an indirect exposure to Betta through Bell IXL and at the same time hedge against future downside risk by cashing out part of your existing investment.

“In addition, as Bell IXL is an active investor, you will share in the exciting future growth of the company in the coming years.

“This offer is not a takeover by Bell IXL of Betta. Although Betta is likely to report a significant loss for the half-year ended 31 December 2005, Bell IXL has full confidence in the management of Betta led by CEO Guy Houghton.”

Bell IXL has identified Betta as a long term investment, and along with its associates has already acquired 1,745,425 shares in Betta or 3.68 per cent of the total number of shares Betta has on issue. Bell IXL itself is the registered and beneficial owner of 1,137,891 shares in Betta.

The Bell IXL offer will only be made to persons, companies or other legal entities that are resident or domiciled in Australia that hold shares in Betta at or after the date of the offer and fall within the definition of sophisticated investor.
According to the statement, a sophisticated investor is a person having net assets of at least $2,500,000 or gross income of at least $250,000 for each of the last two financial years.

These shares in Betta have been acquired through normal trading on the stock market. The total number of shares Betta has on issue is 47,458,596 at the date of this offer document.

According to BSL CEO Guy Houghton, the offer is not being supported by the board.

“The message is that this is not endorsed by the company, but it is fully understood by the company,” Houghton told

“This offer has coincided with a board meeting today and as a result the directors will be discussing the company’s position. This is a sophisticated offer and as far as that is concerned, we will watch it with interest. Investors will need to assess the offer on its merits."