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An employee walks through an Office Depot store in Mountain View, Calif., on July 12, 2010.Paul Sakuma/The Associated Press

Office supplies retailer Staples on Monday offered to buy Office Depot owner ODP Corp. for US$2.1-billion in cash, the retail giant’s third attempt to take over its smaller rival.

USR Parent Inc., or Staples, said it would offer US$40 for each ODP share, a premium of 8.2 per cent to Friday’s closing price. They were last trading at US$43.85.

The two companies agreed to merge in 1996, but the deal was put to rest as a government lawsuit argued the move would have meant higher prices for pens, paper and other office supplies.

Staples’ second attempt, a US$6.3-billion offer in 2016, was blocked by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission saying the merger could reduce competition for nationwide contracts for office supplies.

Since the first offer, new rivals such as online retailer Inc. as well as supermarkets Walmart Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. have crowded the market and e-commerce has boomed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to online shopping helped office retailers as the demand for stationery and other learn-from-home products rose.

Staples, which was taken private by Sycamore Partners in 2017, said it is prepared to take “all necessary measures” to divest ODP’s commercial business unit to satisfy any regulatory objections.

The retailer said it would raise the offer if ODP begins a sale of its commercial business unit or divests its CompuCom business, an IT solutions provider.

“Staples has sufficient resources to finance the transaction,” the company said. “Our obligation to proceed with the transaction is not subject to a financing contingency.”

ODP said it was reviewing the offer, taking into account potential antitrust and other regulatory challenges given the previous outcomes.

Office Depot became a unit of newly created ODP Corp. last year, after a 1-for-10 reverse stock split and broader reorganization.

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