Greggs looks at Threshers' stores to drive expansion

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The Independent Online

Greggs, the bakery chain, is eyeing about 100 shops of First Quench Retailing, owner of Threshers, which fell into administration last month.

Ken McMeikan, the chief executive of Greggs, said: "Our property team is looking at the Thresher [and FQR] estate. We look at every chain that goes into administration. It would probably be in the region of less than 10 per cent of the estate." He added that the figure was a "starting point" for the property team and that a number of shops may not be suitable due to unfavourable leases, overlap with existing Greggs' shops and refit costs.

Last month, before FQR appointed KPMG as administrators, Greggs said it planned to open more than 600 news shops in the medium term, taking its number of stores to more than 2,000.

News of Greggs' interest in FQR's 1,200 stores, which also includes the Wine Rack, The Local, Haddows, Bottoms Up and Victoria Wine brands, comes ahead of a deadline of tomorrow for interested parties to submit first round bids for the businesses.

While KPMG has been inundated with requests about small parcels of stores, it is thought there are five main bidders, a mixture of trade buyers, private equity and distressed debt specialists. It is believed two unnamed trade buyers, who are at this stage acting independently, want to buy about 190 stores in Scotland, and up to 300 shops south of the border in England and Wales. Some 55 of Threshers' 65 franchisees, who are being advised by the law firm Blake Lapthorn, are also considering making a collective bid for the franchise estate by Friday.

Yesterday, KPMG said it had made another 35 redundancies at FQR's head office, following 81 job losses in October. A further 1,738 staff lost their jobs as part of the closure of 373 stores announced by KPMG on 5 November.

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