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Debenhams to deny bid for rival

DEBENHAMS, THE retailer, is today expected to announce it is not in talks to acquire Storehouse, the owner of 272 Mothercare and 135 Bhs stores, following reports it was preparing a pounds 750m bid for its troubled rival.

Both companies declined to comment yesterday on suggestions of a bid. On Friday, Storehouse shares closed up 19p at 131p amid rumours of Debenhams' interest. Debenhams has said it intends to grow from 90 stores to 120.

"We do not comment on market rumours or press speculation," said a Storehouse spokeswoman yesterday.

A statement from Debenhams saying it is not bidding for the group would not end the speculation surrounding the future of the business, however. The group has yet to appoint a chief executive following the resignation of Keith Edelman last month after the group posted a 21 per cent fall in annual profits.

Philip Green, who acquired Sears with the backing of the Barclay Brothers, is also thought to be interested in making a bid. Kingfisher, recently gazumped in its bid for Asda, the supermarket company, is another candidate.

"Everyone's pored over Storehouse," said an industry source yesterday. "I doubt it will be an independent entity in six months time."