HMV opts for a break-up to ease debt woes

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The Independent Online

HMV has put its Waterstone's chain of bookshops and the Canadian arm of its business up for sale as the struggling entertainment retailer opts for a break-up to cut its £130m debt.

HMV Canada is said to have attracted a number of potential bidders, with Hilco, the US retail restructuring specialist, one of the names in the frame.

In the UK, Alexander Mamut, the billionaire Russian, could use cash from the imminent flotation of his mobile phone retail business, Euroset, to bid for Waterstone's.

Mr Mamut has built up a stake of 6 per cent in HMV and has hired Credit Suisse to advise on his options.

HMV said there was no guarantee that it would sell either business and that it was not in talks to sell the whole group.

The company issued two profit warnings this year after sales tumbled, blaming the pre-Christmas snow and wary consumers for its problems. But the group has also been a victim of the shift towards buying music and video online from sources such as Apple's iTunes.

HMV has already said it will close 60 stores, comprising 40 HMV shops and 20 Waterstone's branches. HMV bought Waterstone's from WHSmith in 1998 and reinvented its existing Dillon's books business under the Waterstone's brand.

The group is in talks with its banks to refinance its debt after admitting it is close to breaking banking covenants. Simon Fox, the chief executive, predicted this month that the company would still have hundreds of stores on the high street in five years' time

HMV said its banks remained supportive and that it was in constructive discussions with them. The shares, which have almost halved this year, rose 4.5 per cent to 17.5p.