Next and US partner seen as most likely to win Arcadia - reports
Fast-expanding retailer Next and its US partner Davidson Kempner are being widely touted as the frontrunners to buy failed Arcadia out of administration.
If it happens, it would be a further radical expansion for the company that in the last year alone has launched a standalone premium beauty chain, taken on the Laura Ashley and UK Victoria’s Secret operations and become Ted Baker’s lingerie and nightwear licensee. Next being seen as the lead bidder was reported by several newspapers on Sunday.
Monday is the deadline for final Arcadia bids with Next likely to be up against an Authentic Brands Group/JD Sports consortium, pureplay e-tailer Boohoo Group (thought to be most interested in Topshop) and Frasers Group.
But while a Boohoo buy would likely mean mass store closures, it’s not guaranteed that Next would want to keep the majority of the roughly 500 Arcadia stores open. Reports suggested that Next would want to link store rents and other occupancy costs to profitability, which means it would need to get landlords on board and that some stores could shut for good.
Next might not even want to continue with all the chains (Topshop/Topman, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Burton and Outfit). Wallis and Outfit are seen as being at risk in particular.
Next chief Simon Wolfson has previously said he was “only interested in the brands that we think are very, very good” and that the retailer would be a minority shareholder.
It could mean that any deal is similar to the one its for Victoria’s Secret and Laura Ashley ops where it runs physical stores and webstores on behalf of the ultimate brand owner.
Arcadia’s administrators, Deloitte, reportedly want to sell Arcadia by the end of the month.
But as mentioned, Next isn’t the only company interested and it faces a deep-pocketed rival in Authentic Brands Group. Boohoo also has a big acquisition war chest, although it's been suggested it’s now seen as an outsider to win the auction.
And Frasers? It too has plenty of cash to make purchases, but it likes to buy at bargain prices and a hotly contested Arcadia battle might push up the price.
Plus it may have other plans for its available cash. The Sunday Times reported that the company has bid up to £65 million for the Peacocks chain, which came on the market as part of the collapse of Philip Day’s retail empire.
But the report also said that Day, as secured creditor, actually wants around £70 million and if such a bid doesn’t happen, he might buy back the business.
No news has come through yet regarding Frasers’ widely reported interest in buying Debenhams.
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