London, March 17 (Reuters): British retailer Marks & Spencer was at the centre of fresh bid speculation today with takeover talk resurfacing after a year of weak trading and a flat share price.
According to The Sunday Times, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, wants to assemble a consortium to mount a $12.1-billion takeover of Britain’s biggest clothing retailer, which also sells homewares and food.
The newspaper cited senior City sources as saying the QIA, which is already a 26 per cent shareholder in Britain’s No. 3 grocer J Sainsbury, has approached several large private equity houses, including CVC Capital Partners, to gauge their interest in participating, and has spoken to lenders about financing an offer.
QIA and CVC were not immediately available for comment, while a spokesperson for M&S said the firm would not comment on “rumour and speculation”.
M&S, a mainstay of British town centres and best known for mid-priced high-quality staples such as socks and underwear, could be a trophy asset to a sovereign wealth fund and a bid may be timely as M&S appears down on its luck.