By James Wells

MELBOURNE: Bell IXL Investments has increased its shareholding in Betta Stores Limited (BSL) to almost five per cent, which is well short of its intended target of 20 per cent.

Both Bell IXL Investments and BSL are listed on the Newcastle Stock Exchange (NSX).

In a statement made to the NSX this morning, Bell IXL chairman and managing director, Massimo Livio Cellante, said he has received acceptance forms from Betta shareholders who collectively hold a total of 540,291 shares.

“These acceptance forms are being examined to ensure that the accepting shareholders have complied with the requirements set out in the offer document issued by the company,” Cellante said in his statement.

If the acceptance forms are approved then the company will pay $32,417.46 cash to the accepting shareholders and issue 180,097 fully paid ordinary shares in the company to those shareholders.

If the acceptance forms are approved then the total number of Betta shares held by the company and its associates will increase to 2,285,716 being 4.82 per cent of the total number of Betta shares on issue.

As of 31 December 2005, Bell IXL held 1,137,891 shares or 2.4 per cent of the company.

At that stage, Bell IXL was the second largest shareholder behind Kempcombe Pty Ltd which is owned by BSL retailers Ian Murden and Everard Johnson.

A trading halt on BSL shares has been active since 16 March 2006.

Bell IXL made an announcement to the NSX on 14 June 2006 regarding an offer made to BSL shareholders to purchase their fully paid ordinary shares.

In its offer, Bell IXL offered 18 cents cash and one fully paid ordinary share for every three shares in BSL.

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 BSL at or after the date of the offer and fall within the definition of a sophisticated investor.

According to Bell IXL, a sophisticated investor is a person having net assets of at least $2.5 million or gross income of at least $250,000 for each of the last two financial years.

At the time of the offer, BSL CEO Guy Houghton said the offer was not supported by the company’s board.

“Investors will need to assess the offer on its merits,” he said.