x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Kuwaiti retailer buys troubled British stores

The Alshaya Group, one of the largest retailers in the Middle East, yesterday bought part of La Senza, the troubled UK lingerie business.

Alshaya has acquired 60 of La Senza's 146 UK stores from KPMG.
Alshaya has acquired 60 of La Senza's 146 UK stores from KPMG.

Alshaya Group of Kuwait, one of the largest retailers in the Middle East, yesterday bought part of La Senza, a troubled British lingerie business.

Alshaya acquired 60 of La Senza's 146 UK stores from KPMG, which was appointed before Christmas to handle the bankruptcy and restructuring of the chain.

"This is a strategic investment for us and a positive addition to our extensive international retail portfolio," Mohammed Alshaya, the executive chairman of Alshaya, said.

"Today's announcement represents a first step in a long-term commitment to developing the La Senza UK business, which we believe has great potential."

Details of the deal were not disclosed, but Alshaya said it would lead to new product collections and store redesigns, with a total investment of £100m (Dh568m) in the UK retail sector over the next two years.

"It was a bit of a surprise to see this news. It does not strike me as a good opportunity," said Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst based in the UK. "[La Senza] is not a huge company, so it is not going to break the bank. [Alshaya] presumably didn't pay anything for the stores and they see it as low risk."

The deal is part of "pre-pack" administration, in which La Senza briefly went into bankruptcy before the sale of the stores. About 1,100 jobs are expected to be saved.

The brand's remaining stores will close, as will 18 concessions in department stores, with the loss of about 1,300 jobs.

La Senza, which was owned by Lion Capital, a private-equity firm, announced last month that it would go into administration.

Retailers on the UK high street suffered during the previous 12 months as consumer spending fell amid harsh austerity measures imposed by the government to reduce its budget deficit.

Alshaya, which is the partner in the Gulf for brands including H&M, Topshop, Starbucks and Debenhams, represents more than 55 brands across the Middle East and operates 2,000 outlets in 15 countries.

This deal is not expected to affect La Senza stores in the UAE, which are run by the Abu Dhabi company Liwa Trading.

Alshaya already has a partnership with Limited Brands, the US owner of La Senza's brand, with franchise agreements elsewhere in the world for Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works and La Senza.

"We are very pleased that Alshaya will be operating the UK franchise of La Senza, one of the world's leading lingerie brands," said Martin Waters, the president of Limited Brands International. "We believe Alshaya is well placed to deliver a much-improved customer experience to British consumers, in line with the La Senza brand proposition that is so successful elsewhere in the world."

 

rjones@thenational.ae

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