Johnson adds touch of class with Jeeves chain acquisition

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Johnson Service, the laundry specialist, added a touch of Edwardian elegance to its dry cleaning operations today with the acquisition of Jeeves of Belgravia for an undisclosed sum.

Johnson Service, the laundry specialist, added a touch of Edwardian elegance to its dry cleaning operations today with the acquisition of Jeeves of Belgravia for an undisclosed sum.

Johnson, which already has more than 500 dry cleaning outlets, plans to expand the upmarket chain from its current estate of 12 shops, all of which are located in central London.

Stuart Graham, Johnson's chief executive, said the acquisition would help to "reinvigorate" the group's dry cleaning arm, Johnson Cleaners, which lacked a presence in London. "Jeeves is recognised as the premier dry cleaner, tailored to the discerning City and central London market," he said. The prestigious brand's "unique position and image" would be maintained, Mr Graham said.

The services provided by Jeeves, which was founded in 1969 and named after the legendary PG Wodehouse character, includes "placing furs in cold storage", packing clothes for holidays and packaging up heirlooms in an "abundance of tissue paper".

Jeeves was part of Minit Group, the international key cutting to shoe repair company owned by UBS Capital. Minit acquired the specialist chain when it bought Sketchley, the high street dry cleaner, five years ago. Jeeves has annualised turnover of £3.7m and its estimated net assets at the end of March 2003 were £1.7m.

Johnson is also acquiring Minit's 9.75 per cent stake in Jeeves International, the group's global brand. Still owned by Sydney Jacob, the chain's founder, Jeeves International has franchised outlets dotted around the globe from New York and Hong Kong to Istanbul and Jakarta.

Johnson Services, which issued two profit warnings in 2002, made annual pre-tax profits of £15m, down from £19.3m a year ago.

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