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Time is of the essence in potential Debenhams rescue, Frasers warns
07 December 2020

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has warned that unless talks can be concluded quickly, it may not be able to save Debenhams’ UK business.

Frasers confirmed it is in negotiations with the department store’s administrators about a possible rescue deal which it hopes can save at least some of the 12,000 jobs that have been put at risk by the retailer’s potential liquidation.

However, there are complications, and if a deal is not agreed quickly, Frasers said it may not go ahead.

“Whilst Frasers Group hopes that a rescue package can be put in place and jobs saved, time is short and the position is further complicated by the recent administration of the Arcadia Group, Debenhams’ biggest concession holder,” it said.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly.”

Last week saw a bloodbath on the high street as both Debenhams and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia, which owns Topshop, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Burton among others, were put at risk.

Debenhams looked as though it might disappear from the high street after 242 years when JD Sports pulled out of a potential deal to buy the business out of administration. The company then announced it was commencing liquidation proceedings.

Frasers finance boss Chris Wootton signalled over the weekend that his company might be interested in a deal for Debenhams, in an interview with the Sunday Times.

“We hope to be able to save as many jobs as possible,” he told the paper. “However, we have found that Debenhams has been overly reliant on Arcadia for many years, and, with the administration of Arcadia last week, as well as no end in sight to the outdated business rates regime which unduly punishes the likes of Debenhams, it may be a bridge too far.”

Frasers chief Mike Ashley has been pursuing Debenhams for some time. He initially bought a stake in the business in 2014 and began a dogged campaign at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 to take control of the business. He again expressed his interest earlier this year after Debenhams was placed into administration again, but claimed to have been "frozen out" of the sale process by its advisers.

Read our timeline of Mike Ashley's pursuit of Debenhams here.

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