Retail round up - the Sunday papers
Retailers in battle over JJB closures, Oxford Street set for more shops and shoppers in overhaul of the east, British companies the target of rising takeover fever, Borders poised for bankruptcy in US, JD Sports backs off as JJB seeks to reach creditors' agreement, Scotbet for sale as bookies suffer, Land Rover sales continue to accelerate, Landlords to decide future of JJB Sports.
Some of Britain's biggest retailers are threatening to withhold rent payments to landlords if they support JJB Sports' plan to close up to 95 of its unprofitable stores. The Sunday Telegraph understands that one of the country's biggest retailers has called for an emergency industry meeting to fight back against JJB's plan to close the stores under a controversial company voluntary agreement (CVA). "This cannot be allowed," the retailer, who preferred not to be named, said. "Every retailer would love to be able to dump their worst performing stores. "We will call a meeting of all the major retailers to fightback against JJB's plan," he said. "We will tell landlords that if they accept this, we will consider whether or not to pay our rents."
Nowhere is the growing divergence between the London economy and the rest of the UK more apparent than Oxford Street – one of the UK’s most important shopping centres. While high streets in towns across the country have been boarding up stores vacated by the likes of Woolworths and Zaavi, Oxford Street has been celebrating the arrival of new foreign retailers and record rents. Over the next few weeks and months, the full scale of Oxford Street’s prosperity will become clear to the millions of shoppers packing its crowded streets. New stores will open their doors as overseas retailers, such as fashion brands Forever 21 and Desigual, make their debut and others, such as Disney, move to more modern locations. However, the most eye-catching change poised to occur to the street, according to industry insiders, will be the realisation of the last great untapped resource of Oxford Street – the development of its eastern end.
Burberry and Tate & Lyle head list of possible buys for rivals in resurgent corporate sector. Britain is on the brink of a new mergers and acquisitions boom, with companies awash with cash and chief executives emboldened by the surge in share prices over the last year. Royal London Asset Management (RLAM) has drawn up a list of possible takeover targets that includes Burberry, engineers Smiths Group, Tate & Lyle, Premier Oil, financial adviser Hargreaves Lansdown, Smith & Nephew and mining group Kenmare Resources. Jane Coffey, head of UK equities at RLAM, said: "We expect a lot more M&A this year with many corporates throwing off cash after aggressively cutting costs in the wake of the financial crisis.
Bookstore chain whose UK arm went bust at the end of 2009 will bid to renegotiate debts in US under chapter 11 protection. Stricken US bookseller Borders, which has struggled with a long-term shift towards digital sales in the publishing industry, is poised to declare itself bankrupt after failing to reach a deal with bankers over liabilities of more than $1bn (£625m).
Shares in Borders dived 32% on Wall Street on Friday as reports emerged of a chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as early as or Tuesday. The prospect of insolvency at the chain, which has 674 US stores employing 19,500 people, comes 14 months after Borders' UK arm went bust, with a loss of 1,100 jobs. Bookshops have found trading tough as readers shun high-street stores in favour of buying online or purchasing digital books for handheld readers such as Amazon's Kindle or Apple's iPad. HMV, the owner of Waterstone's, sounded a profits warning last month and is facing possible break-up bids.
JD Sports is not pursuing its takeover talks for rival JJB Sports while it awaits the outcome of the latter's proposed rescue plan. Wigan-based JJB issued details on Friday of its last-ditch rescue attempt with the closure of 45 stores through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). The closures could be followed by another 50 over two years. A CVA allows troubled retailers to close or change the rental terms on unprofitable stores. JJB, which employs more than 6,000 people, and its adviser, KPMG, have begun negotiations with landlords to get approval for the plan.
Scotbet, Scotland's biggest independent bookmaker, has been put up for sale. Accountant KPMG has been hired to arrange the sale of the 74-shop chain. Scotbet's chief executive, Kenny Waugh, and its finance director, Richard Spanner, were not available to comment, but the business is thought to have struggled in the recent downturn. Scotbet is part of Mr Waugh's Festival Group, which saw its pubs and hotels business lose nearly £6.5m in the two years to July 2009.
Mail on Sunday
Two of Britain's best-known brands, Jaguar and Land Rover, continued to impress under Indian ownership after sales accelerated in China and Russia. The two car marques, owned as JLR by Tata Motors, saw combined sales jump 6% to 58,400 in the three months to December 31, boosting pre-tax profit five-fold to £275m. Land Rover sales in mainland China rose 82% to 7,220. Russia was another key growth market, with Land Rover selling 3,115 vehicles, 26% higher than last time.
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