The Associated Press

BOSTON_Corporate Express NV on Tuesday swiftly rejected an unsolicited buyout offer from Staples Inc., saying the office products supplier’s $3.67 billion bid was too low.

Staples, the world’s largest office products supplier with more than 2,000 stores, disclosed Tuesday it had offered to pay a hefty premium in an all-cash bid for Corporate Express.

The Netherlands-based office-supplies wholesaler would expand Staples’ highly profitable segment serving business customers after recent slow sales at Staples’ U.S. stores.

But Corporate Express rejected the offer about two hours after Staples’ announced its bid, saying it was not in shareholders’ best interests.

Staples, which declined immediate comment on Corporate Express’ rejection, said its offer came after it made repeated attempts to discuss a deal.

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Corporate Express has contract operations in 20 countries, with total sales of $8 billion in 2006. About half those sales came in the U.S. and Canada, and about half the company’s 18,000 employees are in the U.S.

Staples, a 22-year-old firm with about 74,000 employees, had 2006 sales of $18.2 billion. The company operates in 22 countries in North and South America, Europe and Asia.