Path cleared for HMV takeover of Ottakar’s.

Tim Waterstone has withdrawn from his latest attempt to buy back his namesake bookseller chain from HMV Group plc.

In a statement posted on the London Stock Exchange Web site today (May 2), Waterstone claimed that conditions set by HMV Group on discussions that could have led to a deal had obliged him to withdraw. "No potential acquiror could reasonably have accepted these conditions," he said in the statement.

Those conditions included having to complete due diligence within 14 working days and agreeing not to make a fresh bid approach for 12 months if talks failed, he said in the statement. HMV retained the option to terminate the process at their discretion.

Waterstone, who had proposed an indicative offer of up to £280 million ($512 million) for the books chain, said he was still interested in a deal if the conditions were right. "However," he added, "we believe the financial logic for the Group to sell the book business is demonstrably clear, and if these assets should be put on the market without penal preconditions to due diligence, then we would remain highly interested."

HMV said in a separate statement it had been notified that Lazard Private Equity Partners had withdrawn its backing for Waterstone's bid proposal.

Analysts believe today's announcement clears the path for HMV to proceed with a new bid for rival bookseller chain Ottakar's.

In March, Britain's competition regulator the Office of Fair Trading gave a provisional green light for such a deal.

However, Waterstone and veteran book publishing executive Anthony Forbes Watson said in an April 24 statement that their offer was subject to HMV not acquiring or offering to acquire Ottakar's plc, and "may be withdrawn in that eventuality."

Waterstone's was launched by the bookseller in 1982 and has been owned by HMV since 1998.

The executive has led a series of attempts to buy back the company, which he sold to newsagent/bookseller/stationery chain WH Smith in 1989.

He first made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire it from WHS in 1997. When HMV Media Group was launched in 1988 as a joint venture between EMI Group and venture capital company Advent International, it bought Waterstone's from WHS for £300 million ($480 million at 1988 rates). He again tried, unsuccessfully, to buy Waterstone's back from HMV in 2001.