Shop Direct sale generates low interest but some bids have been tabled - report
The auction of e-tail giant Shop Direct has attracted less interest than had been hoped, according to reports, but some offers are on the table.
Former joint owner of New Look, Apax Partners, is reported to be one of the bidders along with BC Partners and another, unnamed, group.
The fast-growing firm, which owns the Very and Very Exclusive online retail brands, is believed to be up for sale at a starting price of £3bn. In theory that’s not an unachievable amount. With its sales soaring and likely o hit the £2bn mark annually in the not-too-distant future, it clearly has a strong position in UK fashion and lifestyle retail.
It saw major success over the 2016 Christmas period with a 9% sales increase following a year in which pre-tax profits had leapt a healthy 40%-plus.
And it has shown itself to be one of the most tech-focused e-tailers out there with the firm moving fast to integrate artificial intelligence into its customer service offer.
But a report on Sky News suggested that potential bidders have a numbers of concerns. For a start they don’t want to pay a very high price for the company in the light of the uncertain fashion and lifestyle retail market at present. Then there’s Brexit and all the extra uncertainty that could bring for any retail business.
And they are also believed to be fearful that a high price tag could come back and bite them if the UK increases regulations around consumer finance activities. Shop Direct gets a big chunk of revenue from its consumer finance operation with many of its products being bought on credit.
Sky reported that a larger number of private equity groups have held talks about buying the firm but have walked away from the bidding process.
The company is currently owned by the reclusive Barclay twins, who also own Telegraph newspapers and the Ritz Hotel in London. It is believed they could decide to simply sell a minority stake if they do not get the price they want.
That said, Sky also reported that a lowering of the £3bn price tag could some potential bidders who have been holding deciding to enter the ring.
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