Sunday 15 July 2018

Homebase targeted by ex-Comet owner Opcapita

Opcapita would be a controversial owner after it presided over Comet’s collapse.

Homebase has offered a £100 million dowry to entice buyers (PA)
Homebase has offered a £100 million dowry to entice buyers (PA)

By Helen Cahill, Press Association City Reporter

Opcapita, the former owner of Comet, has put in a bid to buy troubled retailer Homebase.

Homebase’s Australian owner, Wesfarmers, is looking to sell the business and is offering a dowry in the region of £100 million to entice suitors.

Retail-focused Opcapita was established in 2006 by former banker Henry Jackson, and the private equity firm raised €350 million (£306 million) from investors in 2016.

Opcapita would be a controversial buyer for Homebase due to its mixed past in the UK retail sector.

The private equity firm bought Comet in 2012, but the retailer went into administration nine months later after credit insurers pulled cover on suppliers’ goods.

Opcapita won back millions from Comet’s administration as the secured creditor of the retailer, but taxpayers were left with a £50 million bill.

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Opcapita failed to turn around Comet ( Ian West/PA)

Opcapita has had some success with UK retailers, however, having restored Game Digital, which subsequently floated on the stock market in 2014.

Other bidders linked with Homebase include Hilco, Endless, Alteri and Lion Capital. Investment bank Lazard has been appointed to sound out potential buyers.

Value retailer B&M has also been named as a possible suitor for the ailing DIY store.

Wesfarmers has also brought in Alvarez & Marsal to explore options besides a sale, with store closures remaining a possible route for the business.

Wesfarmers snapped up Homebase from Home Retail Group two years ago, but the chain’s future was thrown into doubt when Wesfarmers announced £584 million in writedowns from the acquisition.

Rob Scott, Wesfarmers’ managing director, warned that up to 40 stores could close – putting 2,000 jobs at risk.

Wesfarmers is known for its Bunnings chain in Australia, and attempted to import the home improvement brand to the UK by converting 19 Homebase stores into the Bunnings format.

However, the fast pace of the transition gave Wesfarmers little time to introduce the Bunnings brand, which is highly successful in Australia, to the UK consumer.

Wesfarmers also fired Homebase’s senior management team, alongside more than 150 middle-managers, soon after its doomed acquisition of the retailer.

Homebase and Opcapita declined to comment.

Press Association

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