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Wesfarmers gets court approval for shareholder vote on Coles spinoff

Wesfarmers Ltd. shareholders are scheduled to vote Nov. 15 on the spinoff of the Australian retailer's supermarket chain Coles, as ordered by the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Michael Chaney, chairman of the company, said Wesfarmers directors unanimously advised shareholders to vote in favor of the divestiture, which Wesfarmers aims to complete in November. Grant Samuel & Associates, the independent expert brought in by the board, further assented to the spinoff, Wesfarmers said Oct. 5.

Coles also secured committed financing of about A$4 billion from a consortium of domestic and international banks to cover its net debt of approximately A$2.0 billion at demerger.

A second court hearing, subject to required approvals, is scheduled for Nov. 19 after which Coles shares will begin trading on the Australian Stock Exchange, on a deferred settlement basis, beginning Nov. 21.

Wesfarmers, which will retain a minority ownership of 15% in Coles, said in a separate release that Coles entered into an agreement with Witron Australia to develop two automated ambient distribution centers over a five-year period.

The total investment required for the projects is included in Coles' fiscal 2019 net capital expenditure guidance of A$600 million to A$800 million.

Over the same five-year period, Coles will shutter a number of existing distribution centers and will take a hit of about A$130 million to A$150 million, before tax, in 2019 in related redundancies and lease exit costs, Wesfarmers said.

Witron is a unit of the German logistics firm WITRON Logistik + Informatik GmbH.