Speciality Fashion takeover bid by Harrods owner uncertain
Specialty Fashion Group on Tuesday said it is uncertain if the takeover offer received by Middle Eastern investor Al Afia will go ahead, despite posting a 37% gain in first-half profits to $12 million (US$ 9.22 million).
The Australian apparel retailer, which owns fashion brands Katies, Millers and Rivers, said in its earnings statement it was unclear whether Al Alfia, which holds and manages substantial investment assets including London department store Harrods, can fund the acquisition right now, after the death of the sole shareholder's father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, who died in October at the age of 84.
"Due to the unforeseen circumstances relating to the death of the father of the sole shareholder of Al Alfia, the funding has been temporarily restricted in probate," Specailty Fashion said in a statement.
"Al Alfia has advised they are addressing the probate issue, however, it has not been able to confirm when this will be resolved."
Back in early February, Specialty Fashion said it was considering an offer of 70c a share that would result in the company being taken private. At that price, the buyout bid values the retailer at $134 million.
The news comes as the group reported a strong half-year result. For the six months ending December 31, SFG recorded a 1% fall in revenue to $430 million, while comparable sales fell 2%. However, the group's underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 12.7% to $30.4 million for the half-year period.
"While sales revenues were slightly down, margin improved due to better markdown management and holding the overall cost of doing business flat," said CEO Gary Perlstein.
Moving forward, Specialty Fashion said it plans to focus on improving margins at discount retailer Rivers, which returned to profitability in the last financial period. It also plans expand its plus-size brand, City Chic, across Australia.
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