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Arcandor Shares Tumble

German stock market authority scrutinizing company, which operates ailing Karstadt department stores.

BERLIN – Shares in Arcandor AG plunged almost 30 percent in early trading after taking a similar dive Thursday. The stock has lost over 90 percent of its value in the last year, and at mid-day was trading at 1.77 euros, compared to 2.50 euros on Thursday and 24.19 euros a year ago.
    
The German company, which operates the ailing Karstadt department store group, the Primondo catalogue business and Thomas Cook Travel, has also come under the scrutiny of the German stock authority BaFin.

The recent turbulence was prompted by Arcandor’s ad-hoc announcement late Wednesday that the successfully negotiated refinancing deal with its banks might require a change in its holding structure, “including the possibility of raising funds by reducing the level of ownership in Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH and Thomas Cook Group plc.”

A company spokesman had stated that parts of its cash-cow Thomas Cook would not be put up as a guarantee for the deal. Arcandor has a 52 percent holding in Thomas Cook, which currently generates 60 percent of group sales. If Arcandor’s stake falls below 50 percent, Thomas Cook would have to be deconsolidated, effectively cutting Arcandor’s group turnover in half.

The shareholders’ association SdK has called for Arcandor’s chief executive Thomas Middelhoff to resign. “There must be a reaction. Middelhoff’s strategy has failed and there’s no trust left,” said SdK spokesman Lothar Gries.

For complete coverage, see Monday’s WWD.