Spanish Dia announces loss and layoffs in middle of takeover bid

Discount store plans to lay off around 5 per cent of workforce

FILE PHOTO: People walk outside a DIA supermarket in central Madrid February 23, 2015.  REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo
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Struggling Spanish supermarket chain Dia was under pressure to take action to restore its balance sheet after it announced on Friday falling revenue and a net loss for 2018, saying it would lay off thousands of staff.

Dia is planning a €600 million rights issue, which chief financial officer Enrique Weickert said on Friday it aimed to finalise before reporting first quarter earnings around mid-April.

The company has been steadily losing market share in Spain, where its low-cost model flourished during a painful recession. It is now finding it hard to keep up with competitors including Germany discounters Aldi and Lidl, and domestic rival Mercadona.

It has also received a takeover bid.

The company declined to comment on Friday on the bid by its largest shareholder, Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman, who currently holds just under 30 per cent of the company through his LetterOne (L1) investment company. On Tuesday, L1 offered to buy the whole group, valuing it at more than €400m ($453m).

On Friday, the company's market value stood at just over €450m.

After the L1 bid, Dia said its creditors had indicated support for extending financing until 2023, provided it went ahead with a rights issue to restore its net equity position which was negative to the tune of €166m end 2018.

However, Mr Fridman said on Tuesday that its takeover bid was dependent on the rights issue not going ahead, and added that if its offer was successful, it would raise some €500m through its own capital hike. DIA has said it would explore L1's bid, but has noted that it was concerned over the feasibility and timing of the refinancing strategy.

In the meantime, the store group said 2,100 workers or around 5 per cent of its total workforce would lose their jobs.

Dia posted a net loss of €352.6m in 2018, compared to a profit of €101.2m a year earlier, and said sales were €7.3 billion for the full year, down from €8.2bn in 2017.

Dia shares, prone to volatility after an almost 85 per cent drop in the last year, slipped 0.28 per cent broadly in line with the overall market.