Business Irish

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Arnotts snubs €100m Kuwaiti wealth fund

Roisin Burke

A/Wear owner 'brought two bids to table' for iconic Dublin store

Arnotts' bankers knocked back a bid from Kuwait's prestigious national sovereign wealth fund, according to A/Wear owner Michael Flacks.

The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) offer was one of two which Flacks said he brought to the table in a bid for the iconic department store. The other was on behalf of an American investment bank, which Flacks wouldn't name.

Both the KIA and the US investment house gave commitment letters offering between €75m and €100m "to buy the buildings and the business," Flacks said. "We've shown the money, both times we were refused," he said. "They think they can do better, even though they're not making enough money," he added.

Monaco-based Flacks led the group of international investors that bought A/Wear at the start of this year. He has spearheaded bids on retail groups Bon Marche and outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure and said that his Flacks Group owns retail and commercial sites and apartments in Germany.

"We're still looking at Arnotts, but they don't want to do anything... they have no interest in selling it," Flacks continued.

Arnotts chief executive Nigel Blow said he was unaware of any offer made to the banks, and has previously stated that the business is profitable.

IBRC and Ulster Bank, which jointly control Arnotts due to the €315m debt owed to them by the group, declined to comment, with Ulster Bank saying it doesn't comment on individual customers.

Worth close to €250bn in assets, the Kuwait Investment Authority is one of the Middle East's largest and oldest sovereign wealth funds, established by its ruling royal family in the Fifties to reinvest the country's oil wealth.

Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds have shown an increased interest in prestigious retail assets in recent years, with the Qatari royal family's fund, Qatar Holdings, buying Harrods for €2bn. Earlier this year Flacks declared an interest in buying Clerys but is not thought to have been one of its final bidders for the O'Connell Street store.

The Manchester businessman, at one time a next door neighbour of Top Shop billionaire Philip Green in Monaco, has been linked to a deal to buy a shopping complex called the Accrington Arndale Centre in north west England put on the market by UBS Wealth Management.

Flacks' consortium bought the 32-store A/Wear chain out of receivership and is running it as a going concern with plans for expansion.

His €1m bid plus €2.5m cash commitment offer for 60 per cent of the Olhausen's sausage company was unsuccessful last week.

Arnotts' management has maintained that they are not seeking a buyer for the business and a multimillion investment project is under way.

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