Central Retail Could Take Larger Slice of Selfridges Amid Signa Woes – WWD

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LONDON Central Retail will invest further in the British department store only if the conditions are right, the company said in a filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Central Retail is the publicly traded division of Central Group, the majority owner of Selfridges, which it purchased two years ago alongside the troubled property giant Signa Holding.

On Friday, Central Retail said it would assess future investment opportunities based on “strategic fit, appropriate pricing and optimal timing.”

The company, which is thought to be mulling a further investment in Selfridges, said any business venture “must contribute positively to the interests of the company” and all shareholders.

Central clarified its position following speculation in the U.K. media that it might buy Signa’s remaining stake in the store.

Two years ago, Signa and Central joined to acquire Selfridges for a reported 4 billion pounds. They each took a 50-50 stake in the retailer, which they split into two businesses, a property one and a retail one. The latter pays rent to the former.

As reported last week, Signa Prime Selection AG, which has stakes in retailers including Selfridges, KaDeWe, and Karsdadt, has filed for bankruptcy and submitted its restructuring plan to a Vienna court.

After Signa’s troubles surfaced, Central took control of the operating company that oversees the Selfridges stores in the U.K.; Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland, and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, which are all part of the Selfridges Group. 

Central has said that “regardless of the position of our JV partner,” it is committed to supporting all of its European luxury stores. “We will ensure that they have all the backing they require to continue to operate as normal.”

The property company which owns the Selfridges’ Oxford Street and Manchester Exchange stores is still 50-50 owned by Signa and Central. It is understood that Central still has to decide whether it will take full ownership of that company following Signa’s insolvency.

Separately, earlier this week Fitch downgraded Signa’s Development division to “D” from “C” following its declaration of insolvency in Vienna in late December.

Fitch said Signa’s “constrained liquidity, including nonpayment to suppliers, caused a halt to some of its development projects. This has led to contagion effects on other Signa entities including Signa Development.”

Fitch noted that Signa Development plans to continue operations and repay its debt according to its presented restructuring plan, which is scheduled for approval at its creditors’ meeting in March.

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