Woolworths Holdings' $2.2 billion takeover of David Jones may be slowly slipping through its fingers.
Billionaire Solomon Lew has won a major skirmish in the battle, with the David Jones board forced to delay a crucial shareholder vote on the deal by two weeks.
David Jones announced on Thursday that, with the agreement of its takeover suitor Woolworths, it had applied to the Federal Court seeking a postponement of the scheme meeting of David Jones shareholders which was slated for June 30.
The decision to push back the crucial vote on the takeover, which requires 75 per cent support from shares voted at the gathering, was caused by Mr Lew's announcement on Wednesday that he had snared 9.89 per cent of David Jones through his private investment vehicle Australian Retail Investments.
David Jones said in a short statement to the Australian Securities Exchange that the court had granted it the two week extension to give time for the David Jones board to assess the implications of Mr Lew's significant shareholding for David Jones shareholders.
Mr Lew is still circling from the shadows and he is yet to publicly state his motives for buying up nearly 10 per cent of David Jones shares.
But he has won a victory in forcing a delay of the vote, which gives him more time to buy more shares and perhaps rally other shareholders to help him derail or vote down the multi-billion takeover for Australia's oldest and second biggest department store.
It is unclear if the David Jones board, which unanimously supports the $4 cash per share bid from Woolworths, will have to seek further postponements of the vote.
The postponement comes as Woolworths shareholders in South Africa only four days ago voted overwhelmingly in favour of the takeover, which would turn it into one of the biggest retailers in the southern hemisphere.
Woolworths boss Ian Moir is yet to publicly voice his views on Mr Lew's shareholding and on whether he would be prepared to deal with Mr Lew and elicit his support for the takeover bid.
But the market remains unware of Mr Lew's actual intentions.
Whether he wants to make his own bid for David Jones, or squeeze out a side deal from Woolworths in regards to his $160 million minority stake in Country Road (of which Woolworths is the major shareholder), he has yet to declare his hand.
Mr Lew has been stranded as a minority shareholder in Country Road for nearly two decades.