M&S shares reverse gains as Barclay brothers deny interest

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THE BID euphoria surrounding Marks & Spencer, the beleaguered retailer, collapsed yesterday after the Barclay brothers, the property tycoons who backed entrepreneur Philip Green in his bid for Sears, ruled themselves out as bidders for the group. Tesco, the supermarkets chain, was also blowing cold, despite having engaged CSFB, the investment bank, to advise it.

With scepticism also mounting about the likelihood of potential foreign bidders such as Hennes & Mauritz and Pinault Printemps Redoute emerging, M&S shares ended down 25p or 8.5 per cent at 275.5p, in what was nearly a mirror image of Friday, when M&S closed up 37.25p at 300.25p after frenetic trading.

Ellerman Investments, the Barclay brothers' company, broke its traditional silence to say that the businessmen had "no interest in making an offer for Marks & Spencer with or without other parties".

The Barclay brothers - owners of the Scotsman and Sunday Business newspapers - had backed Philip Green, the retail entrepreneur, in his successful pounds 548m bid for Sears, the stores chain, and there was speculation they could be teaming up again for a bid for M&S. Mr Green earlier had been forced by the Takeover Panel to put out his own clarification. He confirmed that he had engaged Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette, the US investment bank, as advisors "in respect" of M&S.

DLJ is believed to have been exploring the possibility of bringing in some big US private equity firms as backers.

However, by yesterday evening Mr Green appeared to be playing down his interest. "I am not not going to do anything till after Christmas," he said. "We are at any early stage at looking at a number of things and this happens to be one."