Sports Direct weighs up £61m Debenhams bid
Written by Hannah McGrath
Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is weighing up a £61.4 million all-cash bid to takeover struggling department store chain Debenhams.
In a statement announcing the plan yesterday, Sports Direct, which owns 30 per cent of Debenhams shares, said the offer of 5 pence per share for the stock it does not already own would be conditional on Debenhams “immediately” appointing Mike Ashley as chief executive.
It also said the offer would require a reversal of the restructuring plan currently under consideration with lenders, which would wipe out shareholder value, including the stake held by Sports Direct.
It comes after Debenhams’ board repeatedly rebuffed offers from Ashley’s company to seize control, including a recent offer from the retail tycoon to stand down from the board of Sports Direct in order to take the reins at the High Street brand.
It also comes after Ashley led a boardroom coup at the start of the year, resulting in the ousting of Ian Chesire as chairman and the removal of Sergio Bucher from the board, although the latter remained in his role of chief executive.
Debenhams announced it was in the process of negotiating a £200 million financial lifeline with lenders as part of financial restructuring plans. In October the company said up to 50 shops may have to close, putting 4,000 jobs at risk.
In a statement to the stock exchange yesterday, Sport Direct said: “The offer, if made, would represent a premium of approximately 127 per cent to the closing price of Debenhams shares on 26 March 2019.”
It would also be prepared to assist Debenhams in addressing its immediate funding requirements as part of the possible offer.
Debenhams has previously said that any firm proposal from Sports Direct would be “given due consideration by the board”.
However, the retailer has also pointed out that the timescale suggested as part of the potential takeover bid would “not, in itself, address Debenhams' immediate funding requirement”. As a result: “the company will continue with its plan to obtain the funding required.”
Debenhams has yet to respond formally to Sports Direct’s latest announcement.