finance

Thai conglomerate in advanced talks to buy Selfridges


Thai conglomerate Central Group is in advanced talks to buy retailer Selfridges from Canada’s billionaire Weston family, according to three people familiar with the matter.

A deal for one of the retail industry’s trophy assets, which the Weston family had been aiming to sell for about £4bn, may be reached in the next several weeks, two of the people added.

If completed, the sale would end the Westons’ almost two-decade ownership of Selfridges, best known for its flagship store on London’s Oxford Street, which they acquired in 2003 for £598m. It has operations in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Central Group is Thailand’s biggest department store operator and is controlled by the billionaire Chirathivat family.

Acquiring Selfridges would add to Central Group’s stable of top-end European department stores, which includes Germany’s KaDeWe, Italy’s Rinascente, Swiss group Globus, and Denmark’s Illum. Central teamed up with Austrian real estate group Signa Holdings for the KaDeWe and Globus acquisitions.

Selfridges owns many of its properties in the UK and Ireland outright, including the flagship store on Oxford Street. This is expected to add to the appeal of the business at a time when department stores are facing growing challenges from online retailers and changes in consumer tastes.

“This is one of those one-of-a-kind assets that trade maybe once in a generation,” said a person close to the talks.

Credit Suisse was appointed to help the Westons sell Selfridges this year after it received an unsolicited approach. Central, which bid and lost out to domestic rival Charoen Pokphand Group in last year’s $10.6bn takeover of Tesco’s Thai and Malaysian operations, Thailand’s biggest-ever corporate acquisition, is being advised by Citi.

The mooted sale comes after a period of succession within the Weston clan. The family patriarch, W Galen Weston, died in April, while Paul Kelly, who had run the Selfridges group since the Westons acquired it, moved to another role in the holding company in 2019.

Wittington Investments, the family holding group that owns Selfridges, is separate from the UK entity of the almost-identical name that owns Associated British Foods.

Wittington Investments is run by Weston’s son, also named Galen, while his sister Alannah is chair of Selfridges group. They are cousins of ABF chief executive George Weston.

Central Group and the Westons declined to comment. The Times reported earlier on Thursday that the two sides had agreed a deal.



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