UK News Selfridges' owners in talks with Qatar about potential £4bn sale
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Selfridges' billionaire owners are in talks with Qatar about a potential £4billion sale that would see the world-famous department store change hands for the first time in nearly two decades.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations said funds linked to Qatar had taken the lead in the race to snap up Selfridges.
Such a deal would see the Middle Eastern state take ownership of a second, major London department store.
Qatar acquired Knightsbridge-based Harrods in 2010 through its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). The Weston family in July launched an auction for Selfridges after a difficult year during which it was forced to close for several months. The group operates four Selfridges stores in the UK – in London, Birmingham and Manchester where it has two.
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Sources said the Qataris – who bought the iconic Printemps store in Paris in 2013 through Divine Investments – are not yet in exclusive talks and it is possible a rival bidder for Selfridges may yet be successful.
It is also understood that discussions with the Qataris had included the possibility of buying only the Selfridges department stores, possibly excluding the group's Irish shops Brown Thomas and Arnotts, Holt Renfrew in Canada and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands which are also owned by the Westons.
A deal with Qatar would be a defining moment for one of Britain's most prized businesses.
Selfridges was founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, an American retail magnate who became known as the 'Earl of Oxford Street' and was the subject of the ITV period drama Mr Selfridge. He built it into a household name before stepping down as chairman in 1941.
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The Oxford Street store is now a major London landmark. The nine-storey flagship has bucked the trend of declining high streets and helped the company maintain strong sales and footfall despite the rapid rise of online giants such as Net-a-Porter and Amazon.
Canadian billionaire Galen Weston bought Selfridges for £598million in 2003. He died aged 80 in April and his daughter Alannah Weston is now in charge of the business.
Other sovereign wealth funds rumoured to be interested in buying Selfridges include Saudi Arabia, which did not respond to invitations for comment.
Other possible buyers that have been rumoured to be interested include Chinese state-backed businesses, Hong Kong's Lane Crawford and Canada's Hudson's Bay Company, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue in the US.
Credit Suisse has been appointed to oversee the auction. QIA and Selfridges declined to comment.
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