Exclusive: Bidders To Spark Comet Takeover
The owner of Comet is exploring a sale of the electrical goods chain less than nine months after it paid just £2 to take control of the business.
I have learned Opcapita has begun assessing the prospect of a sale, casting fresh uncertainty over the future of one of Britain's best-known retailers.
People close to the situation said Opcapita's decision to explore a sale had been prompted by a string of unsolicited approaches from potential purchasers. The prospective buyers include private equity firms, these people said.
Opcapita, a specialist investor in troubled retailers and a former owner of MFI, bought Comet in February, aided by a £50m dowry from Kesa Electricals, the publicly-quoted group now known as Darty.
Chaired by John Clare, the former chief executive of rival Dixons, Comet pledged to return to its 1980s roots with a focus on low prices in an effort to lure back consumers.
The exploration of a sale of Comet comes as the occupants of British high streets and out-of-town retail parks continue to struggle. Research published this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the accountancy firm, revealed that retailers are closing shops at a rate of more than 30 each day across the country.
Among the chains to have collapsed so far this year are Clintons, Past Times and Peacocks. Most recently, more than 2000 jobs at JJB Sports were lost when the company called in administrators.
At the time of its sale earlier this year, Comet operated from 240 stores, with approximately five stores having since been closed. Comet has an annual turnover of £1.3bn, but like many retailers has been hamstrung by high rent costs, declining disposable incomes and the rapid migration of shoppers to digital channels.
Mr Clare said during the summer that Comet was "climbing out of the hole" in which it had been found and that it was on track to break even during this financial year.
Opcapita was unavailable for comment.