May 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Top-10 online retailer CDW accepts buyout offer from private equity firm

Madison Dearborn Partners LLC has agreed to pay approximately $7.3 billion for CDW, which sells computers and software to government, businesses and consumers. But CDW can solicit other bids for 30 days.

The buyout frenzy caught up a leading online retailer as CDW Corp. agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC for approximately $7.3 billion. And that price may prove insufficient to acquire the retailer of computers and software, as the company says it has the right to solicit other bids for the next 30 days.

CDW, No. 8 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is the third-leading seller of computers and electronics online, after Dell Inc. and HP Home & Home Office Store. CDW, which sells mainly to government agencies and businesses, had just over $2 billion in online sales in 2006, 13% ahead of the prior year and about 28% of its overall revenue.

“This transaction represents the next chapter for CDW,” John A. Edwardson, chairman and CEO, said in a statement announcing the deal. “We believe it provides a compelling opportunity to maximize value for our shareholders.”

The company said that it conducted an auction among a number of potential bidders before accepting the offer from Madison Dearborn, a Chicago-based private equity firm. With the help of investment bank Morgan Stanley, CDW will solicit other bids over the next month.

Madison Dearborn has offered to pay CDW shareholders $87.75 in cash for each share of common stock, a 16.1% premium over the share price of $75.56 on May 25. The company’s share price had already gone up 25% since March amid speculation it might be acquired.

CDW reported first-quarter 2007 sales of $1.86 billion, up 17% over last year. Direct web sales amounted to $550.8 million, or 32.1% of revenue, excluding the Berbee Information Networks unit CDW acquired last year, which does not sell online. CDW reported first-quarter net income of $76.8 million, up 24.5% over the same quarter of 2006.

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