Arcadia buys Sears for pounds 151m

ARCADIA YESTERDAY announced the pounds 151m purchase of Sears from Philip Green, the retail entrepreneur, raising speculation in the City that Mr Green could now turn his attention to Storehouse, the troubled owner of Bhs and Mothercare.

Storehouse announced its second profits warning in as many months yesterday, prompting yet another fall in the share price as analysts downgraded pre-tax profit forecasts from pounds 68m to around pounds 55m for the current financial year.

Mr Green is renowned for buying ailing retail groups and repackaging them for sale. Mr Green said: "We will look at any interesting opportunity where we think we can add value."

Analysts, who said Mr Green was the name at the top of everybody's list, also mentioned Tom Hunter as a possible buyer; Mr Hunter sold Sports Division to JJB Sports last year. Debenhams, the department store group, last week denied it was in talks with Storehouse.

But analysts said that Storehouse - which has suffered a dramatic collapse in its share price from 212p in 1993 to 124p yesterday - was in such a poor state few would want to buy it. One said: "Unless you thought you were the Midas of retail you wouldn't want to get involved."

Analysts were also sceptical about Arcadia, despite a warm market reception which saw shares jump almost 8 per cent to 244.5p after news of its purchase of the Sears portfolio, which includes Warehouse, Wallis and Miss Selfridge.

"If they were proven strong brand specialists then fine but they still have a lot of work to do on their own brands. It's a tough environment and it won't take much for them to find themselves in hot water," an analyst said.

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