Kesa Electricals sells struggling 'Comet' for £2


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The Independent Online

Struggling electricals chain Comet was today sold for a token £2 after its owner Kesa Electricals called time on the loss-making business.

Comet, which operates 248 stores and has about 10,000 staff in the UK, will be taken over by retail turnaround firm OpCapita in a deal which will see Kesa pump £50 million into the business and take on the firm's pension scheme.

It is the latest casualty of the consumer spending slump after rival Best Buy announced plans to close its 11 stores in the UK, putting 1,100 jobs at risk.

Kesa, which has been reviewing options for Comet since June, said the UK chain was expected to make a loss of £22.3 million in the six months to October 31, after like-for-like sales fell 18.6% over the period.

Kesa had already announced plans to shut one of Comet's three warehouses, axe 12 of its 14 regional service centres and close nine under-performing stores as part of a cost-cutting drive.

It said today that a sale made more sense than pressing ahead with the turnaround plan, as it would increase the group's earnings and significantly reduce its rents.

The sale, which would need to be agreed by shareholders, would free it up to focus on its other European businesses, including the Darty electricals retail business in France.

Kesa's shares opened more than 7% higher today.

A spokesman for OpCapita said there are no plans to make any further store closures beyond those already announced by Kesa.

The electricals market in the UK has come under huge pressure in recent months as shoppers put off major purchases. Comet has previously admitted that "big ticket" items such as TVs and large appliances are not selling well.

Comet and Currys and PC World owner Dixons Retail have both issued profits warnings as sales come under pressure, while Best Buy plans to pull the plug on its big box electrical stores by the end of the year.