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NEW YORK — Dollar General isn’t about to be left out in the cold. The discounter is starting a bidding war for Family Dollar with an approximately $8.95 billion offer as it attempts to trump a Dollar Tree bid.

For Dollar General, the decision to enter the fray was clear because Family Dollar had been on its radar for a while. Dollar General Chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling said during a conference call today that the company had expressed interest in combining with Family Dollar multiple times over the last few years.

One reason Dollar General is angling for Family Dollar is its customer base. Dreiling said that Family Dollar is strong in metropolitan areas, while Dollar General’s strength lies in rural markets.

“Maybe we’ll be able to learn something from each other,” he said.

The two businesses also have similar pricing strategies, offering shoppers most products at $10 or less. At Dollar Tree, everything in its stores costs just a buck.

While Dollar General and Family Dollar have several complimentary aspects of their businesses, a combination would also help eliminate some competition in the sector.

Dreiling said that even though retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have been opening smaller-format stores to try to lure lower-income customers, Dollar General’s business has actually been hurt worse when a Family Dollar store opens near one of its locations.

But that doesn’t mean that Wal-Mart and other retailers like Kroger Co. aren’t a competitive threat still. By bringing Family Dollar into the fold, Dollar General can not only eliminate the rivalry — it can also bolster its muscle to help ward offer bigger players.

A Dollar General and Family Dollar combination would create a chain with almost 20,000 stores in 46 states and sales of more than $28 billion.

Family Dollar has also come into play because of its business struggles. The Charlotte, North Carolina company has been shuttering stores and cutting prices in hopes of boosting its financial performance. In June investor Carl Icahn urged the company to put itself up for sale.

Dollar General Corp. said it would pay $78.50 per share in cash. That’s 3 percent higher than Family Dollar Stores Inc.’s Friday closing price of $76.06. Dollar General put the deal’s value at $9.7 billion.

Last month Dollar Tree Inc. made an $8.5 billion bid for Family Dollar. It offered to pay $59.60 in cash and the equivalent of $14.90 in shares of Dollar Tree for each share held. The companies valued the transaction at $74.50 per share at the time. Including debt and other costs, the companies estimated the transaction to be worth approximately $9.2 billion.

It remains to be seen if Dollar Tree will boost its offer for Family Dollar, and Wal-Mart recently said it’s not interested in acquiring a dollar chain. Dreiling would not comment on whether Dollar General would be willing to increase its bid.

Dollar General stocks jumped $5.61, or 9.76 percent, to $63.06 in midday trading today. Family Dollar Stores also jumped $3.84, or 5.05 percent, to $79.90.

Dollar Tree slipped $1.01, or 1.81 percent, to $54.60.