Daily Mail

Will Ash­ley merge stores?

- Arding & Hobbs · Sports Direct International

a MerGer of house of Fraser and Deben­hams could be on the cards, Sports Di­rect boss Mike ash­ley has ad­mit­ted.

The re­tail ty­coon said he was still in­ter­ested in buy­ing Deben­hams af­ter deny­ing re­ports Sports Di­rect was con­sid­er­ing a takeover bid ear­lier this year.

ash­ley, 54, paid £90m to buy house of Fraser out of ad­min­is­tra­tion this year and owns a near-30pc stake in Deben­hams.

how­ever, he has writ­ten off the value of the stake af­ter shares plunged by more than 80pc this year to just 6.6p. ap­pear­ing be­fore MPs on the Com­mu­ni­ties Se­lect Com­mit­tee last night, he said the stores should join forces to com­bat the high Street slow­down. ‘ I told them to work to­gether,’ ash­ley said.

asked whether he was still in­ter­ested in buy­ing Deben­hams dur­ing an in­ter­view with Sky News, he said: ‘ I look at all things, so I would say yes.’

he added Deben­hams should im­ple­ment a con­tro­ver­sial in­sol­vency pro­ce­dure called a com­pany vol­un­tary ar­range­ment be­cause its rent is too high. The chain is clos­ing 50 of its 166 stores af­ter suf­fer­ing a loss of al­most £500m – the biggest in its 240-year his­tory.

ash­ley added: ‘Deben­hams has got an ab­so­lutely almighty task. I’m happy to work with them, I’m happy to dis­cuss things, I’m happy to see if there’s any syn­er­gies where we can work to­gether.’

he warned MPs, mean­while, that on­line shop­ping was killing the high Street and called for a 20pc tax on in­ter­net re­tail­ers.

‘ Un­less you do some­thing re­ally rad­i­cal the high Street isn’t go­ing to be there any more,’ he added.

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