By James Wells

MELBOURNE: The announcement by Bell IXL today that it is unlikely to receive any more interest in an offer to purchase shares in Betta Stores Limited (BSL) conflicts with earlier reports made by the company to the Newcastle Stock Exchange.

In early August, Bell IXL managing director, Massimo Cellante claimed that Bell IXL had increased its shareholding in BSL to almost five per cent after receiving acceptance forms representing 540,291 shares.

Bell IXL claimed today that the company has received valid acceptances of just 229,125 BSL shares, which shows that some offers of shares were classified as invalid.

The Bell IXL offer was only applicable to those 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.

“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 a statement at the time.

"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.

Bell IXL now claims it has approximately 3.7 per cent of the company following the purchase of the additional 229,125 BSL shares.

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 at the time.

Massimo Cellante and Guy Houghton were unavailable for comment this afternoon.