Woolworths has won a struggle with US retailer Lowe’s, its joint venture partner in the failed Masters hardware business.
The supermarket chain now has a clear run at selling the property of Masters after an award was made in confidential arbitration between the two parties.
The US homeware retailer is now required to sell its shares in the joint venture company, Hydrox Holdings, for a value determined by an independent expert.
Lowe’s, which owns one-third of the Masters business, had alleged Woolworths was engaging in shareholder oppression, doing deals in the best interests of Woolworths and not the joint venture.
The award means Woolworths can go ahead with the $835 million sale of the Masters properties to the Home Consortium, which includes Aurrum Group, Spotlight Group and Chemist Warehouse.
The properties include 40 freehold trading sites, 21 freehold development sites and 21 leasehold sites. Home Consortium plans to repurpose the former Masters sites into multi‐tenant large format centres.
Woolworths announced in August last year it was exiting its home improvement division.
The Masters business had been losing about $200 million a year, unlike main competitor Bunnings which is a major contributor to profits at its owner Wesfarmers.
Writedowns of more than $4 billion before tax on its hardware business and flat supermarket sales brought Woolworths to its worst loss in 20 years, $1.23 billion for 2016.
Brad Banducci, who was appointed CEO in February 2016, has been restructuring to turn the business around.
Woolworths in February posted a net profit for the first half of $725.3 million compared with a loss of $972.7 million a year earlier.
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