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Middle East and Chinese investors circle Selfridges

Sophie Smith
22 April 2024

Selfridges continues to attract interest from Middle East and Chinese investors as the financial woes of the department store’s co-owner trigger a battle for the business.

Fellow co-owner Central Group is exploring ways to take greater control of the department store chain, according to The Times.

The Thai conglomerate wants to buy out Signa’s remaining stake in the retailer with another partner. It is in talks with several sovereign wealth funds and tycoons about a potential partnership.

Both Middle East and Chinese investors are said to be interested, with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which supported Signa’s Selfridges bid, said to be in the running.

The newspaper reports that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the owner of department stores Harrods and Lane Crawford, may also revive its interest in Selfridges after previously looking to acquire the business when it was put up for sale in 2021.

Industry insiders ruled out backing from the likes of the London branch of Bangkok Bank, which provided a loan of £1.7 billion that is secured against the freehold of Selfridges’ store in the West End.

Sources told The Times that Central Group was well resourced and not reliant on funding. It is said to prefer joint ventures with other companies so it can "leverage [its] capabilities".

Selfridges was acquired by Central Group and Signa for £4 billion in 2021 from the Weston family, with the business separated between an operating company and a property company.

However, Signa - owned by billionaire Rene Benko - filed for insolvency in December 2023 amid financial troubles, bringing the future ownership structure of the department store into question.

Following this, Central Group moved to take control of the operating business late last year, converting a £317 million loan into a majority stake in the retailer.

Despite this, Signa still owns 50% of the property company and holds around 35% of the operating company.

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