Retail bosses make grab for high street names following Iceland turmoil

BHS boss Sir Philip Green is taking advantage of the crises in the Icelandic banking system and in the country’s retail group Baugur by going after as big a slice as possible of its British high street brands.
He wants to invest up to £2bn in Baugur, which owns or has stakes in over 20 UK retailers including House of Fraser, Debenhams and Woolworths, but which has now had some of its assets frozen.

Adding to its problems, credit insurance firm Coface has also withdrawn or reduced cover for suppliers to some of Baugur’s retailers.

Baugur maintains that none of its UK retail brands are adversely affected by the financial turmoil in Iceland. However, it has appointed KPMG to review cash management at its under-performing Whittard of Chelsea stores.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Walker is reported to have abandoned his bid to buy Woolworths’ stores and to have turned his attention instead to buying part of Baugur’s stake in the Iceland frozen food chain of which he is chief executive.

At the same time, Sir Alan Sugar has surprised analysts by taking a 3.9% stake in Woolworths. Woolworths’ shares have lost four-fifths of their value in the last year, and the company’s viability is in doubt.

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