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Arnotts chairman welcomes bid from Selfridges owner

Arnotts chairman Nigel Blow has welcomed Selfridges owner The Weston Group’s approved bid for half the Dublin department store, despite previously speaking out against it.

This week Ireland’s Competition Authority approved the sale to The Weston Group of €140m worth (£115m) of loans owed by Arnotts to Ulster Bank, meaning it now owns 50% of the business.

Following consultation with competitors, suppliers and concessionaires, and a survey of 500 Arnotts customers, the Competition Authority said the transaction would not lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the Irish market.

The Weston Group also owns Irish department store Brown Thomas and is a major shareholder in Penneys/Primark parent company Associated British Foods, while Arnotts owns Boyers & Co in Dublin, one of Ireland’s oldest department stores.

Back in December, Blow said he had “real concern” for the department store’s future should the acquisition go through.

However, Drapers understands that in the past few months a series of meetings have taken place between the Arnotts board and Wittington Investments, the holding company for both The Weston Group and Selfridges Group. There have also been meetings with US investment arm Apollo, which owns the other half of Arnotts.

Sources said as a result Blow and the team felt more encouraged and comfortable about their future under the new ownership.

Blow said the green light was a “welcome development” and added: “It brings increased clarity in relation to the ownership of Arnotts and is another step in a process that will secure the future of the business.

Board and management look forward to working closely with the two new owners of Arnotts.”

In its submission to the Competition Authority, The Weston Group said it would invest and develop the 170-year-old store and its “peripheral properties”. However, there are no further details on any development plans as yet.

Separately, talks are understood to have taken place between The Weston Group and Apollo for one of the two parties to take full ownership, with The Weston Group and its partner, property company Fitzwilliam Finance, thought to be the favourite.

A spokesman for Fitzwilliam Finance said it was “delighted” with the result.

He added: “Fitzwilliam Finance has always been confident that its proposed acquisition of  Arnotts would not diminish competition in the retail sector.”

result. He added: “Fitzwilliam Finance has always been confident that its proposed acquisition of Arnotts would not diminish competition in the retail sector.”

 

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