LONDON – The sale Selfridges could be announced in the coming weeks, with Thailand’s Central Group said to be finalizing a deal.
If it comes to fruition, the sale will reunite Vittorio Radice, who is now chief executive officer at Central Group, with the British retailer, began exploring a sale earlier this year following the death of Galen Weston, the patriarch of the family owned.
On Thursday, The Times of London reported that the Weston family had agreed to sell to Central Group, although it remains unclear whether Central will pay the £4 billion price tag, or whether they are partnering with another party – a private equity firm or property corporation. – about the agreement.
An industry source here said £4 billion would be too high a price for Central, which typically pursues much smaller deals. Selfridges declined to comment on the sales report.
Central is controlled by the Chirathivat family, and works retail businesses in Thailand and Vietnam as well as Europe. Its holdings include Rinascente in Italy; Illum in Denmark, and KaDeWe, Oberpollinger and Alsterhaus in Germany.
The company has made no secret of its intention to expand through acquisitions in Europe and Asia, but said it has little interest in the US market.
“It’s a very big, very advanced market. It’s very complicated, whereas in Europe we feel that we can buy these stores and improve them,” Tos Chirathivat, CEO of the group, in an interview with WWD in 2017.
One of Central’s subsidiaries, Central Retail, which operates a consumer portfolio across Thailand, Vietnam and Italy, began trading on the Thai stock exchange in February 2020. Initial Public Offering Going public has raised 78.12 billion Thai baht, or $2.48 billion at current exchange rates. company reached 253 billion baht, equivalent to 8.06 billion USD.
While the markets in which Central operates are heavily oriented towards in-person shopping, the company made a major shift to online in 2016 with the acquisition of Thai and Vietnamese online fashion retailer Zalora for a sum of undisclosed.
In September, Central signed a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com with a total investment of $500 million in fintech services and online retail.
The link sets the stage to take on Alibaba, which is investing heavily in Southeast Asia through Lazada, and raised its stake in the online retailer to 83% in June.
Central Group’s plan is to open multiple flagship stores on JD.com for key department stores and retail chains, as well as for some brands owned or operated by Central Group.
The Chirathivat family is not a household name in Thailand.
Central is the country’s largest retail group, and rose from a single store opened by Tiang Chirathivat 70 years ago.
A Chinese immigrant to Thailand, Tiang founded the company in 1947, introducing flat rates to the country and then their first shopping mall. Now, the family’s portfolio includes everything from shopping malls across Southeast Asia to department stores in Europe and hotel brands like Centara, and the group has more than 70,000 Staff.
Radice is a non-executive board member of Central Group and vice president of Rinascente. If a sale does materialize, he will once again oversee the UK store he helped revive between 1996 and 2003 before the Weston family bought it.
Radice as chief executive of Habitat UK, and later moved to Selfconstruct. After a stint at Marks & Spencer’s home division, he joined the then company, La Rinascente, as chief executive officer in 2005, with the task of restoring the department store which was already sleepy at that time.
As reported, Selfridges began exploring a sale earlier this year and has been working with Credit Suisse to find buyers for businesses in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. It is understood that the Canadian business, Holt Renfrew & Co., is not included in the agreement.
Galen Weston died in April at the age of 80 after a long illness, and discussion of the possibility of selling the corporation arose a few months later.
The late Weston sat at the helm of food, retail and real estate companies in North America, the UK and Europe. Among his possessions are Selfridges Group, including four stores in the UK; Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland; De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, and Holt Renfrew in Canada.
At the time, industry sources encouraged sovereign wealth funds, such as Abu Dhabi’s Adia, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Qatar Investment Authority, which owns Harrods , are interested contractors.
Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford is also seen as a potential buyer, but its $4 billion price tag, and large amount of traditional real estate, is said to be a sticking point for any potential suitors.
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