Platinum Equity doubled down on its play in the office supply market last week, announcing plans to acquire the Australia and New Zealand units of Office Depot Inc. subsidiary OfficeMax.
The deal follows the March announcement that the Beverly Hills private equity firm was purchasing Staples Inc.’s stores in the same geographic region. Financial details of both deals were not disclosed.
While Platinum has not said outright that it would combine the Australia and New Zealand operations of the two office supply giants, that’s the logical play – and puts both potential deals in jeopardy if they don’t pass antitrust muster.
“I’d say it’s 50-50 at best to get this one through,” said Lloyd Greif, chief executive of downtown investment bank Greif & Co. “Obviously, it’s a gamble – one they think they can win – but a gamble nonetheless.”
One of the biggest hurdles for getting regulatory approval is that the Staples and OfficeMax segments in Australia and New Zealand are said to be profitable. Combined with the fact that these are two of the three major office supply companies in that geographic region, that makes for a tough sell, Greif said.
“Sometimes you can make the argument that it’s better to combine operations if it’s for a greater economic good, but both companies are profitable in that market,” he said.
In a statement on the OfficeMax deal last week, Platinum Principal Adam Cooper made no mention of potential business combinations with Staples or any potential regulatory hurdles, instead focusing on the firm’s ability to come in and help focus the operations of the company.
“We are pleased to provide Office Depot a divestiture solution that meets the company’s needs,” Cooper said. “We look forward to working with the OfficeMax management team to continue improving the company’s offering, enhancing the customer experience, and driving sustainable growth.”
If Platinum succeeds in passing government scrutiny, the deal could be a coup for Tom Gores’ shop. Australia alone has an estimated $10 billion office supply market and by combining operational costs and focusing on business-to-business and e-commerce verticals, profits could jump.
While the long-term prospects for the Staples and OfficeMax deals remain uncertain, they’re a signal that Platinum – fresh off raising $6.5 billion in capital for its fourth fund – is making big moves globally.
“They probably have the hottest hand in town right now,” Greif said. “Leonard Green & Partners held that spot forever, but Platinum is killing it. They’re a very opportunistic buyer and if the price is right, they’ll do a deal anywhere.”
Baker McKenzie, Bell Gully, and Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills are serving as legal counsel to Platinum.
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