Baugur set to buy UK jeweller for £20m

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The advance of the Icelandic retail adventurer Baugur along the British high street will continue this week with the acquisition of Mappin & Webb, the historic jeweller.

A deal is expected today or tomorrow, allowing Baugur to merge the 32-strong chain with its bigger rival Goldsmiths, bought by the Icelanders in May 2004.

The acquisition, valuing Mappin & Webb at £20m, will create a jewellery giant of 200-plus stores with annual turnover of £275m. Baugur is expected to reap considerable buying synergies when it merges the two after the Christmas sales rush.

Baugur is contributing 40 per cent of the funding for the acquisition at the head of a consortium that includes several Icelandic finance houses, including Landsbanki. Jurek Piasecki, the chairman and a 15 per cent shareholder of Goldsmiths, will also contribute.

Mappin & Webb was founded in Sheffield in 1774 - four years before Goldsmiths - and has focused on upmarket jewellery from 18 stores concentrated in the South-east. It is silversmith to the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and owns the Watches of Switzerland business. European Acquisition Capital bought Mappin & Webb from Asprey in 1998. Mappin & Webb's chief executive, Nick Evans, is expected to stay on.

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