Retail round up The Sunday papers
Marks & Spencer is plotting an audacious return to retailing on mainland Europe by buying back the shops that it controversially sold almost 10 years ago. In a bold plan to kick-start its international growth, M&S has approached European retailers about re-acquiring some of the properties that it exited in 2001 when it closed its entire Continental chain. The retailer is understood to have made overtures to Spanish chain El Corte Inglés about taking back some of the nine shops that it sold to the retailer. M&S is also considering re-aquiring some of the 18 French shops that were also let go in a deal with Galeries Lafayette, the French retailer. These stores include the flagship shop on Paris's Boulevard Haussmann, which was M&S's first ever European store when it opened in 1975. The strategic move, which is likely to surprise investors and the City, could be confirmed next week when Marc Bolland, M&S's new chief executive, unveils his long-awaited review of the chain.
Betfair, the online betting site that floated on the Stock Exchange last week, has warned that it could join the exodus of digital gaming companies from the UK if the Goverment does not act to level an "uneven playing field". David Yu, the Betfair chief executive, told The Sunday Telegraph in his first interview with a British national newspaper: "We're very happy to be licensed and to pay sensible tax but if we don't see movement we'd have to consider what's right for the business over the long term." Mr Yu's comments come as he awaits the results of a review of the regulation of remote gambling by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
The owner of the nationwide DIY chain Focus has called in investment bankers to look for radical ways to revive the fortunes of the heavily indebted business – a move that could lead to a sale. US private equity firm Cerberus is understood to be taking advice from Lazard on the future of Focus, which struggled through the recession. The UK's fourth largest DIY chain last changed hands, for £1, three years ago. A likely buyer could be Home Retail Group, which controls the Homebase home improvement business and the Argos chain, and has a £300m cash pile. However, Argos is struggling and it is unlikely that shareholders would approve such a distracting acquisition. Another rival, Kingfisher, which owns market leader B&Q, would probably be blocked from any acquisition on competition grounds. According to analysts Verdict, B&Q has a market share of 27%, while Focus has just 3.5%.
JJB Sports has been fined £455,000 by the Financial Services Authority following an investigation into the group’s compliance with disclosure rules. JJB said the fine relates to the “historic compliance with the disclosure and transparency rules in the lead-up to the release of the group’s interim results on September 26 2008”, but would not expand any further on the matter.
Independent on Sunday
Theo Fennell, the jeweller to the stars, is back in the black. Coinciding with the good news, Mr Fennell is launching an Alias silver diffusion jewellery range this week which – at prices from £75 to £2,000 in Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Royal Exchange – is a far cry from the £100,000 necklaces bought by his more well-heeled customers.
Lord Sugar has sold a Mayfair property for £68m making a hefty profit after buying the building for just £24m in 2002. The Apprentice star has exchanged contracts with Giuseppe De'Longhi, on 6-8 Old Bond Street, which is let to luxury fashion retailer Dolce & Gabbana. Mr De'Longhi, the chairman of Italy's domestic appliance manufacturer De'Longhi Group, is buying the building in a personal capacity.
Mail on Sunday
James Nash's proposal to make and sell sealed plastic goblets containing single servings of wine was rejected on BBC2’sDragons’ Den last year. Marks & Spencer disagreed – just days after the show aired last August, they rang James to place an order trialling his product in 91 stores. James’s glasses of wine flew off the shelves and within months they were stocked in all 500 of M&S’s food stores. Now, with a projected annual turnover of £1.5 million, it looks as if his venture represents one of the Dragons’ biggest missed opportunities.
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