Storehouse, the Bhs and Mothercare stores group, is considering a bid for the company from the entrepreneur Philip Green.
Sources close to the talks confirmed that Mr Green, who pulled back from a bid for Marks & Spencer earlier this year, had put an offer to the Storehouse board, which met on Friday and again yesterday. It is thought to be worth between £150m to £200m in cash and there were suggestions that Mr Green had lined up a buyer for Mothercare, which sells children's clothing and toys.
Storehouse announced in February that it had received several approaches but yesterday was the first confirmation that Mr Green was among its suitors.
Officially, a spokeswoman for Storehouse refused to comment. Late last week Brown & Jackson, the discount stores group, said it was no longer talking to Storehouse. It is understood its offer was rejected as being too low. Iceland, also known to be interested, has not tabled a formal offer. Mr Green's proposal is likely to be more attractive to the Storehouse board than a rival proposition put forward by Stephen Tucker, a businessman based Monaco, who simply wanted to replace the current management of the company with his own team.
No money was on offer from Mr Tucker and sources close to him said last night that he still ruled out making a bid. His team would be led by Nigel Whittaker, a former director of Kingfisher Group and though they have been to see Storehouse shareholders, they have not been allowed access to the group's full financial details.
It is thought that Storehouse has demanded an assurance from interested parties that they will not make a hostile bid before letting them see key financial documents.
Bhs is the fifth-largest clothing retailer in Britain, with 154 stores. Storehouse has a stock-market value of around £200m, less than a third of the book value of its assets. It reported turnover of £1.4bn last year but the latest half year figures in November showed a pre-exceptionals loss of £15.7m.
Storehouse effectively put itself up for sale after announcing plans last November to split into two separate units, floating off or demerging Bhs and Mothercare by 2001.
It is thought Mr Green had put together the financing for a bid for M&S but decided not to bid after a barrage of negative publicity was unleashed on him.Reuse content