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Coast owner steps up plans to find a buyer

Lauretta Roberts
16 September 2018

Aurora Fashions is reported to have accelerated its plans to find a buyer for its occasion wear chain Coast, following the fall-out from the collapse of House of Fraser.

The business has reached out to potential buyers in the past two weeks, according to a report by Sky News, although it has been known that Icelandic bank Kaupthing has been on the lookout for a buyer for all or part of Aurora for the past 18 months. Aurora also operates the Warehouse and Oasis chains.

A spokesperson told Sky News that the latest activity was merely an extension of the on-going effort to find a buyer for Coast, but it is believed the activity has been intensified as the chain faces a large bill following the collapse of House of Fraser, in which it operates close to 40 concessions.

Coast has around 24 standalone stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland, along with a number of international stores and dozens of concessions in department stores such as Debenhams, John Lewis, Fenwick and House of Fraser.

Kaupthing came close to selling the entire Aurora chain last autumn when two potential bidders emerged in the form of Philip Day, owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Jaeger among others (who lost out to Mike Ashley's Sports Direct in the race to buy House of Fraser) and Indian investor Emerisque Brands.

However the bank subsequently withdrew the businesses from sale saying that the market did not "recognise the value" in the brands that it did.

A number of businesses have changed hands or secured new investors in the mid-market womenswear space recently. Whistles was acquired by South African group Foschini in March 2016 and the group went on to buy Hobbs in November of last year, while Jigsaw found a new investor in the form of Carphone Warehouse founder David Ross in March of this year.

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