Retail round up the Sunday papers
Sir Philip Green has hoisted a for sale sign over BHS, heralding the break-up of one of Britain’s best-known high street empires. Senior City sources said the Monaco-based billionaire had decided to offload the struggling department store chain after receiving several serious approaches in the past few months. Sales at BHS dipped 3.5% to £675.7m in 2013, according to accounts at Companies House. It made a pre-tax loss of £69.6m, partly because of write-downs on failing stores, although that marked a sharp improvement on the £116m loss a year earlier.
Andrew Higginson, the Morrison’s new chairman, has no miracle cure for the ailing chain. Salvation will come from many little changes, he says. Higginson was parachuted into the role ahead of schedule this month as the besieged supermarket reported another slump in festive sales. At the same time he sacked its chief executive, Dalton Philips, saying that whoever replaced him would not be wearing “L-plates”.
A company that delivers packets of fresh ground coffee is aiming for a £4m cash injection to expand its team and develop its technology. Pact, a two-year-old firm based in Bermondsey, south London, was started by Stephen Rapoport, a serial entrepreneur whose previous home-rental venture was acquired by Airbnb in 2012. He is currently rounding up new investors for Pact, which sends Colombian, Brazilian and east African coffee to subscribers nationwide for £6.95 a packet.
Mail on Sunday
Satellite television broadcaster Sky could launch its own mobile phone service by tying up with the giant company which would be created by a £10.3 billion merger of O2 and Three. The broadcaster, which has more than 10.5 million TV subscribers, has been touted as a potential buyer of O2 itself, but sources close to the company said the broadcaster would prefer a business partnership with the merged mobile operators.
Former Tesco executive David Potts is in pole position to become the next chief executive of Morrisons after the company ousted Dalton Philips two weeks ago. The process is understood to be ‘advancing rapidly’ and the shortlist is now down to ‘four or five’ candidates, sources told The Mail on Sunday. Several people, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a former colleague of the current chairman Andy Higginson is being seen as the prime candidate.
Jon Moulton became a hate figure last month when parcel firm City Link went bust on Christmas Day. As head of the private equity firm that owned the company, he was accused of heartlessness and profiting from others’ misery. Moulton calmly dismisses both suggestions, reeling off the sums lost by his investment company and himself personally, blaming the unions for the seemingly cruel timing of the news. ‘That it would have to cease trading over the Christmas period was obvious, but the announcement was never intended to be on Christmas Day,’ he says. ‘That resulted from extreme pressure from the trade union, who were trying to get the story on the news’.
Leading parcels group DPD is inviting start-ups to compete for funding to develop new technology for its delivery business. The scheme, similar to one set up by retailer John Lewis last year, is intended to get new technology developers to help improve deliveries in what has become a fraught sector. The plan for a start-up incubator comes after a difficult Christmas for much of the sector, in which unprecedented demand from shoppers for home delivery put a number of operators under strain.
An online start-up is planning a rude awakening for high street retailers after sales in its first few months of trading were more than 50 per cent ahead of plan. Adam Black, who previously ran high street beds chain Feather & Black, said he now expects sales in the next 12 months at his Button & Sprung website to hit £1 million.
Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, is among a group of top retail names trying to buy Evans Cycles. Mr Ashley is understood to see Evans Cycles, which would cost roughly £100m, as way to expand Sports Direct into the lucrative cycling market. Halfords and the online cycling retailer Wiggle, which is owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint, are also understood to have looked into buying Evans. Several other private equity firms are thought to be in the mix.
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