and MICHELLE CHAPMAN
NEW YORK -- Will they or won't they?
Shares of Men's Wearhouse (MW) and Jos. A. Bank (JOSB) jumped Monday after Men's Wearhouse said it was boosting its takeover offer yet again -- spurring hopes that the months-long saga might finally be coming to an end.
Men's Wearhouse raised its takeover offer for its rival by 10 percent to about $1.78 billion. Both company's shares rose nearly 8 percent in midday trading.
The two companies cater to different customers -- Jos. A. Bank is geared to a more established male professional, Men's Wearhouse a slightly younger male -- but they offer similar types of clothing: suits and sport coats. As competition has increased in the sector and shoppers cut back due to the uncertain economy, analysts have said a merger is in the best interest of both companies. But agreement on terms has proved difficult: they have been attempting a combination since October.
Men's Wearhouse said Monday it's now offering $63.50 a share for Jos. A. Bank, up from its prior bid of $57.50 a share.
Men's Wearhouse said it may even raise the bid further, to $65 a share, if it is able to examine Jos. A. Bank's books and given access to the company's management team.
Jos. A. Bank didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The raised offer comes 10 days after Jos. A. Bank announced that it was planning to buy the parent company of Eddie Bauer in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $825 million. But at the time Jos. A. Bank left the door open: saying that it may end the Eddie Bauer deal if it receives an acquisition offer that is superior.
Meanwhile, Men's Wearhouse said Monday that it filed a lawsuit in Delaware against Jos. A. Bank and its board and the companies involved in the Eddie Bauer transaction, saying that the move was designed to thwart its offer. It wants the court to order Jos. A. Bank's board to rescind its shareholder rights plan and provide an order stopping the companies from moving forward with the Eddie Bauer deal.
The back-and-forth between Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank started in October, when Jos. A. Bank offered to buy its larger rival for $2.3 billion. Men's Wearhouse scoffed at that offer, and turned the tables, offering to buy its rival for $1.54 billion. But after Hampstead, Md.-based Jos. A. Bank turned down that overture, Men's Wearhouse increased its bid to $1.6 billion.
Shares of Men's Wearhouse rose $3.48, or 7.7 percent to $48.59 in morning trading. The stock had been down about 11 percent since the beginning of the year. Jos. A. Bank's stock rose $4.25, or 7.7 percent, to $59.25. The stock is up less than 1 percent since the beginning of the year.