Re­tail vet­er­ans head ri­val of­fers for Asda in £6.5bn bid­ding war

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Laura Onita

TWO re­tail vet­er­ans are poised to do bat­tle for Asda as a £6.5bn bid­ding war hots up.

For­mer Deben­hams boss Rob Tem­ple­man is squar­ing off against pre­vi­ous Asda chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Ma­son in a race to buy the su­per­mar­ket from its US owner Wal­mart, ac­cord­ing to Sky News. Mr Tem­ple­man has been lined up to over­see an of­fer from pri­vate eq­uity com­pany Apollo Global Man­age­ment, while ri­val bid­der Lone Star Funds has brought in Mr Ma­son to take charge of its bid.

It comes as Wal­mart restarts talks with pos­si­ble buy­ers af­ter it put dis­cus­sions on pause when coro­n­avirus hit. The sale process was launched fol­low­ing a failed ef­fort to merge with Sains­bury’s last year.

Mr Tem­ple­man has a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with Apollo and worked with the firm dur­ing its own­er­ship of bookmaker Gala Coral. He pre­vi­ously ran Hal­fords and Home­base, and held the top job at Deben­hams un­til 2014.

Mr Ma­son was at the helm of Asda un­til 2001. He then served as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Somer­field, and was also chair­man of re­tail­ers Cath Kid­ston, Matalan, New Look and more re­cently Dr Martens.

Wal­mart has owned Asda since 1999 when it took over the chain in a £6.7bn deal. The com­pany wants to off­load its Bri­tish op­er­a­tions to fo­cus on more lu­cra­tive mar­kets such as In­dia, where it re­cently spent $16bn (£13bn) to take con­trol of on­line mar­ket­place Flip­kart.

Its plan to merge Asda with Sains­bury’s would have left Wal­mart with 42pc of the com­bined busi­ness, but the pro­posal was thwarted by the com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog in a rul­ing that all but ended hopes of fur­ther gro­cery megadeals.

Wal­mart is likely to keep a mi­nor­ity stake if a pri­vate eq­uity sale goes ahead, al­low­ing it to share in the profits from any fu­ture stock mar­ket float.

This week, Wal­mart said that Asda would fo­cus on ex­pand­ing its on­line ca­pac­ity as it con­tin­ued to lose mar­ket share to ri­vals.

The Asda auc­tion is likely to con­clude be­fore the end of the year. TDR Cap­i­tal, an­other pri­vate eq­uity firm, is also said to be con­sid­er­ing a bid.

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