By and  on March 12, 2010

LONDON — Liberty plc, the London department store famous for its fabrics, is one step closer to having a new owner.

The retailer, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, issued a statement Friday saying it had received approaches, which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company.

As reported in the summer, Liberty’s chief executive officer, Geoffroy de La Bourdonnaye, said the company was considering taking on majority or minority investors to fuel growth.

“Liberty has been examining and assessing a range of options and initiatives that would enable it to build upon its success,” the company said Friday. “This has included seeking investors who could bring capital and expertise to help develop and grow the business both within the U.K. and internationally.”

According to industry sources, Li & Fung is believed to have made a 30 million pound, or $45.5 million, bid for Liberty’s fabric business. A spokeswoman for Li & Fung in London could not be reached for comment at press time. However, a source close to Liberty said it was unlikely the store’s majority owners, Marylebone Warwick Balfour Group plc, would break up the business and sell it piecemeal.

A source familiar with the sale told WWD the store has “a lot of untapped potential, but the price is too high.” Liberty is thought to be asking in excess of 75 million pounds, or $113.7 million. A Liberty spokesman declined to confirm the figure.

Liberty’s market capitalization is 62.2 million pounds, or $94.3 million at current exchange. On Friday, its shares closed up 7.2 percent at 295 pence, or $4.50 per share. Liberty is 68 percent owned by MWB Group plc, and the remaining 32 percent of shares are quoted on London’s AIM secondary market.

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