New Look is bid target - report
New Look’s problems are continuing with the latest reports saying that the stricken fashion chain is now in the sights of potential bidders as the value of its bonds collapses.
Those bidders could be looking to snap up what is still a giant business at a bargain basement valuation.
The Mail on Sunday said that several potential buyers, insisting on anonymity, told it they were considering an attempt to buy control of the chain at a cheap price.
The company is currently part of South Africa’s Brait, the business empire controlled by billionaire Cristo Wiese.
It has struggled in recent periods with sales growth proving elusive. But it has also been affected by the problems afflicting Wiese’s widespread business (such as accounting scandals at Steinhoff), which have undermined confidence in other parts of his business empire.
This has made New Look more vulnerable to predatory bids because it has hit confidence in its ability to handle its huge debt load.
Brait may not want to sell the chain, but the £1.9 billion cash it raised to buy the business back in 2015 was borrowed in the form of bonds. And that fact alone could mean buyers could potentially acquire it “by stealth”.
The bonds are traded on the Luxembourg stock exchange and the price varies depending on how confident investors are that New Look will be able to repay the debt. On Friday, the debt was trading at just over half its value.
US fund Apollo is reported to be among the hedge funds and so-called vulture funds interested in the business. Many hold the view that there’s still a fundamentally sound business at New Look’s heart but one that needs fewer stores and much less debt.
In fact, some analysts have said the firm’s reported plan to close up to 10% of its stores doesn’t go far enough and have suggested a figure closer to 30%, the newspaper reported.
Buying up the bonds could see the purchasers winning out regardless of what happens. If the firm does recover, the bonds’ value would rise, but if it fails, their owners would be in strong positions to step in and take control because they would be major creditors.
New Look hasn’t commented on any of the reports currently swirling around it.
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