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Whistles and Phase Eight owner eyes Hobbs

Lauretta Roberts
03 July 2017

Foschini Group, the South African owner of Whistles and Phase Eight, is reported to have tabled a bid for premium high street chain Hobbs.

Hobbs, which was founded in Hampstead in 1981, has been put up for sale by its private equity owner 3i and Foschini is understood to have placed an early offer to buy it, according to The Sunday Times.

3i is believed to be looking for a price of around £80m for the business, which last year reported sales of £104.4m and profits of £1.4m, and for which it paid £111m 10 years ago. Foshini's bid is believed to be short of that £80m figure and a number of mid-size private equity houses are also said to be in the mix to buy the chain.

Foschini, which owns 22 fashion chains that are mostly based in South Africa, has been snapping up British chains in recent years. It acquired Phase Eight two years ago and last March it bought Whistles from Icelandic investor Mundur; at the time of the purchase CEO Jane Shepherdson said she planned to keep her 20% stake in the business and continue to run it but she stepped down last autumn.

Another South African group, Truworths, is also reported to be keen to build up a strong base in the UK. It is said to be interested in acquiring the Oasis, Coast and Warehouse brands, which have been put up for sale by Icelandic bank Kaupthing, and it already owns footwear chain Office. Edinburgh Woollen Mill's Philip Day is also believed to be circling the brands and has been highly acquisitive of late with his most recent purchase being the debt and brand name of heritage brand Jaeger, acquired from Better Capital.


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