Fayed brothers sell 10% Sears stake: Loss of pounds 60m on disposal of holding feeds speculation about pressure from banks

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THE FAYED brothers yesterday sold their 10 per cent stake in Sears, the retailing group, raising pounds 156m in cash, but crystallising a loss of about pounds 60m on the ill-fated investment.

The sale sparked speculation that the Fayeds, owners of the House of Fraser store chain, are under pressure from their bankers, led by National Westminster and Samuel Montagu.

Michael Cole, a spokesman for the Fayeds and HoF, said: 'Our financial arrangements are entirely satisfactory but equally confidential.' Total borrowings were now 'slightly less than pounds 650m', he said.

An attempt to sell some of the regional department stores to a management group, financed by the Electra Kingsway development capital group, is reported to be foundering, with the two sides unable to agree a price.

The stockbroker Goldman Sachs bought the 156 million Sears shares at 100p each, and placed them with institutions throughout the world at 101p, making a return for itself of pounds 1.56m.

It kept a small proportion of the stake for itself and US investors.

Mr Cole said the Sears shares had been as low as 56p. 'We believe this was a good price at which to make an elegant and graceful exit.' HoF accumulated the stake at an average price of more than 140p.

The stake in Sears, which owns Miss Selfridge, Dolcis and other chains, led to a few modest joint ventures like in-store concessions. But the Fayeds were rebuffed when they wanted to join the Sears board.

Some analysts said the timing of the sale - just ahead of the Sears results, which are expected to show a strong improvement - suggested the Fayeds were under pressure to raise cash quickly. But Mr Cole commented: 'The market is sufficiently sophisticated to take account of the Sears results and that is already reflected in the share price.' Sears shares, trading at 104p ahead of the placing, closed at 101p yesterday.

The Fayeds, whose flagship is the Harrods department store in London, have other assets including the Barker Centre in Kensington High Street, the Harrods depository in Barnes, London, and a hotel in Edinburgh.

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