Retail round up the Sunday Papers
Tesco eyes Mothercare, Just-Eat tests City appetite for floats, Activist shops at Morrisons, Mike Ashley smashes tank into Debenhams, Ocado wants giant sites to increase capacity for grocery deliveries, Wetherspoons set to open Britain's first motorway pub, Amazon to launch Sunday deliveries, Camra petition demands new watchdog for pubs
Tesco is weighing a surprise swoop on Mothercare as part of its wider campaign to reinvigorate its British hypermarkets. Tesco examined a bid six months ago, retail sources said, but put the plan on hold. Mothercare’s shares have since collapsed, with a Christmas trading warning taking them from 420p to close last week at 272p, giving a market value of £241m. City insiders said the fall could rekindle Tesco’s interest. The sources said it had made no app-roach. Tesco declined to comment.
Britain’s biggest online takeaway service and a hotel chain owned by the easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou are drawing up plans to float. The food delivery website Just-Eat and easyHotel, a budget chain, join a growing list of companies looking to list this year. Bankers said the number of businesses considering going public has picked up in recent weeks thanks to a buoyant stock market and the quickening economic recovery. A listing of Just-Eat could value the online takeaway company as high as £800m.
An activist investor pushing for a break-up of transport giant First Group has quietly built a stake in ailing supermarket chain Wm Morrison. The American hedge fund Sandell Asset Management, run by Swedish billionaire Tom Sandell, disclosed its stake as Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer faces demands to sell freehold property to free-up cash. Investors including the US hedge fund Elliott are agitating for bigger cash returns through the sale of some of Morrisons’ £9bn property empire, from which it plans to raise up to £800m.
Mail on Sunday
Sportswear tycoon Mike Ashley will meet Debenhams boss Michael Sharp as early as this week over a plan to flood the department store with the billionaire’s clothing. The talks come after Ashley’s Sports Direct piled into Debenhams shares last week with trades that one source described as ‘parking a tank’ on Debenhams’ lawn.
Ocado has drawn up a shortlist of locations for a third giant warehouse that will increase its capacity for grocery deliveries by up to 50%. Bosses have found sites near Leeds and Manchester for a 350,000 sq ft automated warehouse. The online grocer has also begun a search for another massive facility in the South East, sources said.
JD Wetherspoon will open Britain’s first motorway pub on Tuesday. The chain has spent £1.2million on The Hope and Champion at the Extra service station next to junction 2 of the M40 near Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.The pub is named after the stagecoaches called Hope and Champion that passed through to and from London.
Amazon is to strike another blow against the high street by launching a Sunday delivery service across the UK. The online retailer is to offer the deliveries in seven areas, for shoppers frustrated about missing deliveries during the week when they are at work. Amazon tested Sunday deliveries in London during December. It will now make the service permanent in the capital, while also rolling it out to Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Nottingham, Manchester and Leeds.
Independent on Sunday
More than 18,000 real ale drinkers have called on business secretary Vince Cable to create a pubs watchdog ahead of a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday. Camra has complained that publicans are treated unfairly by the big pub chains, which control about one-third of the industry, and a regulator would ensure that rents and wholesale prices are fair. Landlords are often forced to buy beer from the pub companies which can inflate a publican’s costs by around 50p a pint.
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