Investors may put retailers in shop window

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The Independent Online

Deal-starved investment bankers and corporate advisers are hoping it won't just be cheap food and clothes up for sale in early 2009.

There is speculation that private equity-owned retailers could be put on the market as investors look to recoup some of their money, preferably at a healthy profit as the credit crunch softens.

Typically, private equity players hold on to an asset for three to five years. Simon Tilley, managing director at Close Brothers, said: "There are a number of deals from 2003-04 that could be sold on again in 2009."

There are several rumours in the market, including the following:

New Look

Apax Partners and Permira, two of the biggest private equity houses, have had majority control of the womenswear chain since it was taken private for nearly £700m in 2004. They came close to selling up in 2007 and rumours persist that the groups are keen to cash in their investment.

Pets at Home

The pet supermarket was bought by Bridgepoint for £230m in 2004. Like New Look, a sale was considered, in this case in the form of a £600m float. But market turbulence foiled that plan. Should Bridgepoint decide to sell, it would still get a healthy return as sales now top £350m a year.

Maplin

Montagu Private Equity snapped up the electronic goods retailer for £244m in 2004. After some early problems, Maplin has shown signs of strong performance. In 2007, sales rose 21.5 per cent in its shops and 14.9 per cent over the internet, while the first seven months of last year saw 14 new outlets opened.

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