Retail round up The Sunday Papers
House of Fraser asks Lloyds to raise stake, Malcolm Walker bids £1bn to regain Iceland, Consumer Focus watchdog to be axed, Asdas leaked supplier memo, Rival complains about Tesco X-Factor plugs
Taxpayers could end up owning an increased interest in the British retail giant House of Fraser after the store asked Lloyds Banking Group to increase its shareholding in the group as part of a complex property deal. House of Fraser (HoF), taken private by a group led by Sir Tom Hunter and collapsed Icelandic retailer Baugur in 2006, has asked Lloyds to consider swapping a property loan of almost £65m into equity. If the British bank, which is 41pc owned by the UK taxpayer, agrees, it will end up owning a significantly increased stake in the department store chain. It remains uncertain if Lloyds – which inherited the original stake through its acquisition of HBOS at the height of the financial crisis – will agree to the deal, although a source close to it said it "was within an inch" of being completed.
Malcolm Walker, the boss and founder of Iceland Foods, has offered £1bn to buy back the budget supermarket chain that he founded and which was seized by its lenders last year. The retail tycoon and other management already own around 24pc of the private company, with the remaining 76pc in the hands of Landsbanki and Glitnir, two of the collapsed Icelandic banks. The banks have already rejected Walker's management offer, saying they were not interested in selling to the current management at £1bn. The Sunday Telegraph has also learnt that another unknown party – described as an "investment fund" – last week launched a bid for the company of up to £1.4bn.
One of Britain's key consumer watchdogs is to be scrapped as part of the government's "bonfire of the quangos", leaving the public to rely on volunteers to follow up complaints over exorbitant gas and electricity bills. Vince Cable, the business secretary, could announce as early as this week that Consumer Focus, which has strong legislative powers to fine companies and protect consumer rights, is being abolished. The task of overseeing energy suppliers, as well as postal services, is to be handed to Citizens Advice volunteers and local trading standards officers, Cable's team was told in a meeting with Francis Maude, the cabinet office minister charged with abolishing most of the UK's quangos. The business department declined to comment, other than to say that the quango review would be announced this week.
Independent on Sunday
A leaked document has shed light on the tactics proposed by an Asda director to get better terms from the supermarket's suppliers. The secret memo, issued in 2009 as a guide for the retailer's buyers, tells them they must "buy for less". In the introduction, commercial director, Phil Briggs, tells buyers to take advantage of the fact that "our suppliers are hungry for volume [growth]. It is the lifeblood of their business". The 88-page guidance warns buyers that negotiations will not be easy, and they should use techniques such as "good cop/bad cop" in meetings. Asda can make available a "bank of experienced negotiators" the document says. "Non-delivery is not an option," buyers are warned, but reminded to "have fun!"
Mail on Sunday
The producers of The X Factor are facing scrutiny over the show’s promotion of supermarket giant Tesco after a rival chain complained that Britain’s No 1 retailer was mentioned eight times in three episodes. This year Tesco has an exclusive deal to sell The X Factor’s new X Magazine and branded trading cards in its 1,500 UK outlets. The references to the store came after one of the contestants, 50-year-old Tesco worker Mary Byrne from Ireland, made it through to last night’s first live final. Last night a Tesco spokesman said there was no commercial agreement between The X Factor and Tesco to mention the supermarket.
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