Nov 16, 2020
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JD Sports is possible Debenhams buyer

Nov 16, 2020

As the Debenhams auction continues, it looks like JD Sports is seriously interested in the UK's largest department store chain. Reports said that the company is looking closely at Debenhams' finances at the moment, having been granted increased access to the information.

Photo: Sandra Halliday

Only this month, rival Frasers Group complained that it was being frozen out of the auction by not being given access to the financial info.

The news about JD Sports’ interest in the company is intriguing on its own account, but also because of the prospect it raises of even more intense competition with Frasers Group. 

The two companies have been bitter rivals for many years, going back to when Frasers was known as Sports Direct. We now face a possible future scenario in which the two biggest sports retailers in the UK also own two of its major department store chains. 

Not that Frasers boss Mike Ashley appears to have thrown in the towel. Despite Debenhams' advisors saying that his £125 million bid was well below the £300 million price tag they were seeking, reports said Ashley has been trying to find potential partners to help him improve his offer.

But the same reports also said that the momentum currently lies with JD Sports.

Debenhams’ 12,000 staff will be keenly watching the process in the hope that the chain can avoid the liquidation that could happen if a buyer can't be found on the right terms. 

JD Sports has a history of buying distressed brands, including Footasylum, Go Outdoors and Blacks Leisure, and is one of the most respected and successful stock exchange-listed retailers in Britain.

But a question remains around how many Debenhams shops JD would keep open if it did buy the company, out of the more-than-100 that were operating before the latest English lockdown began. Analysts have suggested that its online and beauty operations are more attractive than some other parts of the wider Debenhams business.

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