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Investment group pulls its offer for Herbalife

March 31, 2007|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

An investment group whose bid for Century City-based Herbalife Ltd. was rejected said Friday that it was withdrawing the $2.7-billion offer -- and that it might sell the Herbalife shares it owns or buy some more.

J.H. Whitney & Co., which owns about a quarter of Herbalife's shares, said in a letter to Herbalife's board that it was disappointed by the rejection. The letter warned that "depending on developments," New Canaan, Conn.-based Whitney "may engage in sales or purchases of shares."

Herbalife, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, is a direct seller of nutritional and weight-loss supplements. Herbalife recently won a license to be a direct seller in China, a potentially huge market.

Last month, Whitney offered $38 a share in cash, a 15% premium on the stock's trading price at the time. The stock price rose steadily after the offer. On Friday, it fell $1.08., or 2.7%, to $39.19 -- still above Whitney's initial offer and a sign that investors may be betting on a bigger bid from Whitney.

A special committee of Herbalife's board said Thursday that it was rebuffing the offer because it undervalued the company.

In the letter to Herbalife, a copy of which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, Whitney said it reserved "the right to reconsider a possible transaction," suggesting that another bid might be forthcoming.

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