On 31 August, Kansai Super Market (9919 JP) and its top shareholder (10.02% of shares out) H2 O Retailing (8242 JP) (the parent of Hanshin Department Store and related companies) announced a business merger whereby the H₂O would inject two supermarket businesses it owns – Izumiya and Hankyu Oasis – into a holding company with Kansai Super, receiving shares in a newly enlarged Kansai Super in exchange.
H₂O would go from owning 10.66% to owning 58% of Kansai Super, and the 89.34% would own 42% of NEWCO.
The merger was short-dated/accelerated, with the EGM to vote on this deal set for a Record Date on 15 September, the EGMs of all the related companies where an EGM was necessary (Kansai Super, Hankyu Oasis, and Izumiya (the latter two foregone conclusions because they are 100%-owned by H₂O) on 29 October, and the merger effective December 1st.
The shares popped a bit, then fell back.
At first glance, this seemed somewhat opportunistic for H₂O, and it meant that the 89.34% “minority” in Kansai Super would become a real minority without getting paid a premium or provided a chance to exit. Based on the net assets of the companies, it seemed like H₂O was getting a good deal. Based on the OP levels in the past year, it did not seem like H₂O was getting special treatment.
A couple of days later, on 3 September, privately-held discount (“every day low price”) supermarket chain OK Corp (primarily based in the Kanto area, but which had been aimed at expanding into the Kansai area), which was the second-largest single shareholder of Kansai Super (based originally in Osaka/Kansai) at 7.23%, stepped up and offered a press release which said that it would vote against the merger and if the merger were not approved, it would be willing to launch a Tender Offer to buy the shares of Kansai Super at ¥2,250/share (the highest price since listing and nearly vs ¥1,374/share the day before, and more than double the market price of Kansai Super in June when the proposal was made). On 3 Sep OK complained about their treatment, and noted that from the perspective of shareholder interest, their bid should be considered, but OK also had no intention of launching a hostile bid.
The shares popped, moving limit up. Then limit up another day, and then the shares traded at JPY 2,200/share in considerable volume before drifting lower.
Today the shares fell back 7+% to just below JPY 2,000/share.
There is some very long history between the founder of OK and Yuji Kitano the founder of Kansai Super, and they once worked together, with OK seconding employees to Kansai Super to learn the business of fresh grocery sales.
Mr Kitano passed away in 2013, and OK Supermarket started buying shares in 2016, getting to just under 5%, then it peaked its head above and by the end of the fiscal year in February, owned 7.23%. Of course, that year in October (2016), Kansai Super entered into a business and capital alliance with H₂O Retailing, and H₂O bought about 10% of the shares out.
Fast forward five years and it turns out that OK approached Kansai Super in April 2021, and proposed a capital and business alliance on 9 June, in writing. Kansai Super put this to an Independent Committee which then took its time, setting its first meeting with OK some 11 weeks later on 26 August. The Kansai Super release (Japanese only) on 31 August suggests there was a “third party tender offer approach” but then doesn’t discuss it much while saying that intense discussions and due diligence was afforded to H₂O Retailing in the same timeframe.
Five days after the first interview with OK, Kansai Super and H₂O announced their deal.
This is a complicated deal and it begs the question of whether shareholder interests matter and how shareholders decide.
More discussion below.