updated 6/11/2008 8:27:20 AM ET 2008-06-11T12:27:20

The Dutch office supplies distributor Corporate Express NV accepted a sweetened buyout offer Wednesday of about $2.7 billion from U.S. office supplies retailer Staples Inc.

Staples, which doggedly pursued the deal to broaden its reach in Europe, raised its offer four times, the last two after Corporate Express made a bid for Lyreco of France in a defensive maneuver. Corporate Express is calling off that deal.

The board of Corporate Express said it decided to endorse the Staples deal and recommend it to shareholders after the U.S. company raised its offer to 9.25 euros ($14.36) per share, up from the previous bid of 9.15 euros.

Including Corporate Express debt being assumed, Staples said the transaction is valued at about 3.1 billion euros ($4.8 billion).

Staples is the world's largest seller of office supplies on the basis of its strength as a retailer in the U.S. market. Corporate Express is the largest distributor, selling only to companies.

"This acquisition establishes Staples as the world's premier provider of office products to businesses of all sizes," Staples said.

Corporate Express had 2007 sales of 5.6 billion euros ($8.8 billion), compared to $19.4 billion (12.4 billion euros) for Staples, which is based in Framingham, Mass.

Amsterdam-based Corporate Express said it has broken off its agreement to buy Lyreco, which is entitled to a breakup fee of 30 million euros ($46 million) as a result.

The Staples deal will be presented to Corporate Express shareholders for approval at a meeting on June 18.

Corporate Express shares rose 1.4 percent to 9.20 euros ($14.23) in early trading in Amsterdam.

Ron Sargent, the chief executive of Staples said the hard-fought takeover was a "win for customers, employees and shareholders."

It was certainly a win for Corporate Express shareholders. The company's stock had been trading near 4 euros in February when rumors of Staples' interest began circulating.

Staples' initial offer of 7.25 euros per share was later raised to 8 euros per share, and last month Corporate Express agreed to combine with Lyreco in what was seen as a move to either evade Staples' embrace or force a higher bid from the U.S. company.

On June 3, Staples raised its bid to 9.15 euros, and two days later Corporate Express said they had entered talks.

The offer closes on June 27 and Staples said it expected the deal to close in July.

Corporate Express Chief Executive Peter Ventress will head Staples' international operations, which will be headquartered in Amsterdam.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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