Founder rumoured to be considering New Look bid

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Speculation over the future of the fashion chain New Look reached fever pitch over the weekend amid reports that Tom Singh, the founder, could front a bid to take the company private.

Mr Singh threw the future ownership structure of the company into doubt last month when he said he was conducting a "strategic review" of his 27 per cent stake. That was taken by the market to mean that he was looking to sell out, and shares have soared on the expectation that potential buyers of such a sizeable stake would be likely to make a full bid for the company.

However, it has emerged that one of the strategic options being considered by Mr Singh and his advisers at Deutsche Bank could be a bid for the whole of the company. After a spike by the shares on Friday, the Takeover Panel is expected this morning to examine whether a further statement is needed by Mr Singh. The shares rose 13 per cent to 315p on the day, valuing New Look at £630m.

Mr Singh, 53, borrowed £5,000 from his parents to open the first New Look store in Taunton, Somerset, in 1969. It took two attempts to take the company public. After institutional investors shunned the stock in 1995, forcing Mr Singh to offload 60 per cent to Barclays Private Equity and PPM Ventures, the company was floated in June 1998 at 165p per share. He was named Britain's fifth-richest Asian in a recent survey with assets estimated at £250m. His advisers refused to comment on his intentions yesterday.

If he were to bid, he is likely to be battling against the management team, led by chief executive Stephen Sunnucks, who are expected to mount a buyout backed by private equity funds.