Barclay brothers join bidders for Comet assets


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The Independent Online

Shop Direct, the home shopping group owned by the Barclay brothers, is considering acquiring the brand and website of the failed electricals retailer, Comet, which is to start closing some stores next week.

A host of retailers – including the discounter B&M Bargains, the single price retailer 99p Stores, and the homewares chain Dunelm – are among those looking to buy parcels of Comet's shops on both short and long-term leases from the administrator, Deloitte.

The 236-store chain collapsed into administration last week just nine months after it had been acquired by OpCapita, the private investment firm whose chief executive is Henry Jackson, for a token £2.

Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay's Shop Direct is among a number of groups that have registered an interest in acquiring Comet's website and brand.

The company, which owns the Littlewoods, isme and Very brands, bought the Woolworths brand from Deloitte in early 2009 and relaunched the collapsed pick 'n' mix chain as an online player.

A Shop Direct spokesman said yesterday: "We are always looking at new opportunities," but he declined to comment on Comet.

While Deloitte continues to talk to parties interested in parts of Comet, the accountancy firm launched a "massive stock liquidation" yesterday. GA Europe, the retail restructuring firm, is running the stock clearance.

OpCapita's purchase of Comet has been highly controversial as the firm and its backers could make money from the liquidation, which could deliver up to £50m.

Deloitte is poised to start closing some of Comet's stores next week, which will result in redundancies among the retailer's 6,600 staff.

The pets accessories chain Pets at Home, the discounter Home Bargains and the single-price retailer Poundland are eyeing some of Comet's portfolio on both six-month and long-term leases. While grocery chains, such as Waitrose and Aldi, are thought to have registered an interest in a small number of Comet's shops, the main drive has come from non-food chains.