November 5, 2018 / 12:51 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 2-TPG to buy Australian pet store chain Greencross for $481 mln

* TPG to pay A$5.55 per share vs A$4.54 last closing price

* Shares up sharply

* Company has been battling competition, including from Amazon (Recasts, adds analyst comment, shares)

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Australian pet store owner Greencross Ltd on Monday bowed to a A$669 million ($481 million) takeover from U.S. private equity giant TPG Capital, sending its shares up sharply as investors cheered an exit from a fiercely competitive market.

The owner of hundreds of Petbarn stores and a network of veterinary clinics said it agreed to buyout at A$5.55 a share, a premium of nearly a quarter over its last closing price, after weighing up “a number of alternatives ... and alternative proposals from other potentially interested parties”.

The deal presents a lifeline for a company that has been looking for ways to keep customers in a highly competitive market. Online retailer juggernaut Inc began selling pet products in Australia in September.

“Pet food and accessories are very competitive,” said Daniel Mueller, an analyst at Vertium Asset Management. “Online intensifies the competitive environment.”

Shares of Greencross were trading 18 percent higher at A$5.38 by mid-session, a seven-month high, although lower than the offer price due to some apprehension that the deal may not proceed.

The shares were trading over A$6.40 earlier in 2018 but declined after the company said it was restructuring to save money due to competition in the vet market.

At its annual general meeting on Friday, Greencross warned that market conditions remained challenging and it did not expect to benefit from cost cutting in the first half.

TPG’s Australia and New Zealand arm head Joel Thickins said in a joint statement that “under private ownership the Greencross business, brands and products will continue to grow and provide world-class services to the increasing number of pet lovers in Australia and New Zealand”. ($1 = 1.3887 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Byron Kaye in SYDNEY and Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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