Big Lots shares fall after report on bidders

AP News
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Posted: May 19, 2011 3:43 PM
Big Lots shares fall after report on bidders

Shares of Big Lots Inc. fell Thursday after a report that the discount chain had decided not to put itself on the block.

The Wall Street Journal reported that bids came in lower than expected from two groups of private equity firms, leading Big Lots to decide to stay public. The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said that two groups of firms _Bain Capital and TPG Capital, and Thomas H. Lee Partners and Advent International_had put in final bids for the company. They weren't willing to increase their offers, partly out of concern over the store's growth prospects, the Journal said.

Big Lots shares had risen from about $31 in February, when buzz about a potential sale first emerged, to as high as $44 in April. The shares gave up some of their gains this month, remaining below $40 since May 5. In February, at least four investment firms filed regulatory papers saying they each own more than 5 percent of Big Lots' stock.

The stock fell $3.96, or 10.5 percent, to $33.78 in afternoon trading. It traded as low as $33.30 earlier in the session.

Big Lots, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, has struggled with falling revenue. This month, it reported that sales in stores open at least two years fell 3.6 percent for the quarter that ended in April. That's an important measure of a company's health because it excludes the impact of newly opened or closed stores.

Big Lots has been working on a turnaround. It shook up its merchandising team, is opening new stores and closing old ones, and getting strict on store managers to keep their stores clean and visually appealing. It's also trying to encourage customers to spend more by offering more brand-name products and better-quality merchandise. The company sells so-called "closeout" merchandise, which often comes from other retailers canceling orders or going out of business.

Big Lots will hold its annual shareholder meeting in Columbus on May 26.