Thursday, 4 December 2008

Prices slashed in Woolies sale as Dragon pulls out of rescue bid

MILLIONAIRE entrepreneur Theo Paphitis has pulled out of a possible deal which could have saved the jobs of employees of the Minehead branch of Woolworths.
The troubled retailer went into administration last week with debts of £385 million and receivers Deloitte was immediately approached with several inquiries about purchasing the chain.
Mr Paphitis, a star of the BBC Dragon’s Den television programme, was said to be interested in bidding for some of the more profitable Woolies stores and maintaining the Woolworths brand.
However, the Dragon has now pulled out and said in a statement: “Unfortunately, the constituent parts of Woolworths are more valuable than the whole.
“The administrators have a difficult job to do and I appreciate they need to get the highest cash value for the business.
“I hope that an alternative proposal succeeds in securing the future for the many Woolworths employees involved.”
Mr Paphitis has previously revived troubled brands such as La Senza and the stationary chain Rymans.
His withdrawal leaves the future of 30,000 Woolworths jobs in doubt, although Deloitte said the stores would continue throughout the Christmas period and money had been ring fenced to pay salaries.
It is now expected that most of the stores will be sold in small groups to a number of different bidders.
The deadline for bids for single or small groups of stores was 4 pm on Wednesday.
Supermarket firms Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, the Co-op, and discount chain Poundland were all said to be interested in some of Woolworths’ prime high street locations.
The largest shareholder in Woolworths, Ardeshir Naghshineh, was also reported to be preparing a bid for the company.
Woolworths will tomorrow start its ‘biggest ever’ sale in an effort to shift large volumes of stock, slashing prices by up to 50 per cent across its product range.
Deloitte partner Neville Kahn said: “We anticipate increased footfall in the stores and have hired additional staff to cope with increased demand.
“Additional goods have been moved to all stores and further stock will be added in the coming days.”
Woolworths Group, which has a 40 per cent stake in 2Entertain, a joint publishing venture with the BBC, is also likely to be placed into administration.

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