Thai-based department store owner Central sizes up Selfridges takeover

A Thai-based conglomerate which owns the Italian department store Rinascente is among a pack of suitors weighing multibillion pound takeover bids for Selfridges, the owner of one of Britain’s landmark shopping destinations.

Sky News has learnt that Central Group, which is controlled by the Chirathivat family, is among a number of parties to have expressed an interest in acquiring the globally renowned retailer.

Sources said that Central was working with investment bankers at Citi on its interest in Selfridges, although they cautioned that there was no certainty that a formal bid would emerge from the Asian group.

If one does materialise, it would raise the tantalising prospect of a return in some capacity to the business of Vittorio Radice, who ran it between 1996 and 2003.

Mr Radice subsequently moved to Rinascente, before it was acquired by Central Group in 2011, and has remained involved with its department store operations since.

One banker said on Thursday that a bid for Selfridges from Central Group could be constructed with backing from other investors.

Selfridges was effectively put on the block earlier this year – with a reported £4bn asking price – following an unsolicited approach from an unidentified buyer.

It is unclear whether that party remains in the process, although in the ensuing months a Qatari sovereign wealth fund and the Hong Kong department store-owner Lane Crawford have been among those touted as prospective buyers.

The process is expected to last into the early part of 2022, although it is conceivable that a deal could be announced before then.

Selfridges’ UK operations are expected to change hands, along with its sister businesses in Ireland and the Netherlands.

The Canadian operations of its owners, the Weston family, are not included in the auction.

The Westons bought Selfridges and its flagship Oxford Street store in 2003 for about £600m, following a bidding battle whose participants included the former high street billionaire Sir Philip Green.

Family members including Alannah, Selfridges’ chairman, remain closely involved with the business, although Galen Weston, its patriarch, died earlier this year.

Founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, its Oxford Street store became one of the most prestigious sites in the world.

Although its West End location has been hit by the pandemic, people close to the process have pointed to its lofty price tag as an indication that the current owners retain faith in its prospects.

Central Group would be a natural bidder for Selfridges, given its presence in the department store sector.

Its Thai-listed subsidiary, Central Retail Corporation, owns operations in Europe and Asia.

Spokespeople for Selfridges and Citi declined to comment, while Central Group did not respond to a request for comment.

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