Belfast Telegraph

House of Fraser merger rumours lift Debenhams’ shares

There has been speculation that Mike Ashley might merge House of Fraser and Debenhams.

Debenhams’ shares have been boosted by rumours that retail boss Mike Ashley might merge it with rival department store House of Fraser.

Mr Ashley, who is the founder and chief executive of Sports Direct, announced on Friday that he was buying House of Fraser out of administration for £90 million.

The news has sparked speculation that the retail tycoon might also swoop on Debenhams, which has issued a number of profit warnings this year, and combine it with House of Fraser.

Mr Ashley owns just under 30% of Debenhams’ issued share capital, close to the threshold at which he must launch an official takeover bid.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said: “The rally in Debenhams’ shares is a clear indication the market believes Sport Direct could be ready to pounce.

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Mike Ashley owns just under 30% of Debenhams’ issued share capital (Joe Giddens/PA)

“A move to effectively consolidate the two troubled department store chains into a single offering looks to be the only viable solution to their problems; combining the operations to reduce overheads and stop competing against each other will prove beneficial.”

Debenhams’ shares jumped 13% in morning trading on Tuesday, before paring back gains in the afternoon, when they were up 4.3% at 13.3p.

Since Mr Ashley’s takeover of House of Fraser was announced, Debenhams’ shares have risen by close to 15%.

Sports Direct said last month that it had taken an £85 million hit on its stake in Debenhams due its series of profit warnings.

The retail chain blamed the write-down for dragging on full-year profits, which fell by 72.5% to £77.5 million.

The company also has strategic investments in Game Digital, French Connection and Goals Soccer Centres.

Mr Ashley has promised to save around 47 of House of Fraser’s 59 stores in his buyout of the chain.

Speaking to The Sun newspaper, he said the department store needed to stock more luxury brands such as Prada and Gucci.

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