Frasers Group in talks to save Debenhams’ UK operations

Negotiations underway with administrators about a possible rescue deal that could save thousands of jobs.

Frasers Group in talks to save Debenhams’ UK operations Getty Images

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has said it is in talks with Debenhams to save the department store’s UK’s operations.

Frasers said that time is short and that the recent administration of Topshop-owner Arcadia, which is also Debenhams’ biggest concession holder, has complicated things further.

Last week, fears were raised about the futures of both Debenhams and Arcadia, potentially putting tens of thousands of jobs on the line.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Frasers said: “The company confirms that it is in negotiations with the administrators of Debenhams’ UK business regarding a potential rescue transaction for Debenhams’ UK operations.

“Whilst Frasers Group hopes that a rescue package can be put in place and jobs saved, time is short and the position is further complicated by the recent administration of the Arcadia Group, Debenhams’ biggest concession holder.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly.”

Retail giants Debenhams and Arcadia Group are both on the brink of collapse, putting more than 25,000 jobs at risk.

Arcadia, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has hired Deloitte as administrator after the pandemic “severely impacted” sales.

It is the latest retailer to have been hammered by store closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rivals including Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse have fallen into insolvency since lockdown measures were first imposed in March.

Debenhams looked as though it might disappear from the high street after 242 years when JD Sports pulled out of a potential deal to buy the business out of administration.

Frasers finance boss Chris Wootton signalled over the weekend that his company might be interested in a deal for Debenhams, in an interview with the Sunday Times.

“We hope to be able to save as many jobs as possible,” he told the paper.

“However, we have found that Debenhams has been overly reliant on Arcadia for many years, and, with the administration of Arcadia last week, as well as no end in sight to the outdated business rates regime which unduly punishes the likes of Debenhams, it may be a bridge too far.”

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