Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group interested in buying Arcadia brands

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is interested in snapping up parts of Arcadia Group after Sir Philip Green’s retail empire collapsed into administration last week.

Chris Wootton, chief finance officer at Frasers, told the PA news agency the group was on the “look out” for opportunities on the high street.

“Yes, there is a genuine interest there,” he told PA.

Arcadia Group
Arcadia Group

“The process has just started so it’s hard to say more than that, but since a couple of weeks ago we’ve been looking seriously at it.”

Last week, Arcadia Group hired administrators, putting around 13,00 jobs at risk.

A day later, department store chain Debenhams said it planned to start a liquidation process with plans to shut its stores for good next year, with around 12,000 jobs at risk.

Mr Wootton said Frasers is still in talks around potentially buying Debenhams, after the Sports Direct owner confirmed it was in talks over a move on Monday.

It came as Frasers Group, which also owns Flannels, Evans Cycles, Jack Wills and House of Fraser, said strong online sales and a boost since the first lockdown ended had increased its profits in the last six-month period.

Pre-tax profit rose by 17.6% to £106.1 million at Frasers Group, in the half-year to the end of October.

Mr Wootton said the figures “showed the success” of Frasers’ elevation strategy which has seen it focus on growing its operations in premium areas of the retail market.

Its premium lifestyle business division rebounded to profit despite a 0.7% fall in sales before acquisitions.

The finance chief also repeated calls for an overhaul of the current business rates system, which is set to restart in April after a 12-month break in the face of the pandemic.

Mr Wootton said: “We’ve been talking about rates for a while and will continue to do so unless there is reform.

“It’s not about Frasers paying less. We know that some of our sites should pay higher rates but a lot of valuations are also miles too high, so we just want these to be fair.

“Given Covid, there’s a danger that hundreds of businesses will collapse when these rates bills come back in.”