Mothercare quashes talk of a takeover bid

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The Independent Online

Mothercare, the maternity and children's clothing retailer which has issued three profits warnings in the past nine months, said yesterday that it had received no approaches regarding a possible takeover bid.

Mothercare, the maternity and children's clothing retailer which has issued three profits warnings in the past nine months, said yesterday that it had received no approaches regarding a possible takeover bid. The comments came as the group announced a sharp fall in profits and said its chairman, Alan Smith, would step down later this year.

"No one has approached the company," Chris Martin, its chief executive, said. "There has been a lot of noise but it is the management team's intention to sort the business out."

Mothercare has been the subject of recent takeover speculation with possible bidders including a former director, Bob Martin. Terry Green, the departing chief executive of Bhs, is also monitoring the business.

Analysts attributed the 2.75p dip in the shares to 237.75p yesterday to the lack of takeover news. "The shares are down on the lack of bid developments," Nick Bubb, retail analyst at SG Securities, said. "If you were looking to bid, you would be waiting to see the figures, so it's not surprising there's been no approach."

Mothercare has been reeling from a botched new warehouse opening last year that hit stock availability in the stores. Yesterday the company issued a disappointing current trading statement saying like-for-like sales in the past eight weeks were down 2.1 per cent on the previous year. However, it said sales performance should improve in the second half of the year as it rolls out new store formats while improving stock availability and reducing costs.

Stock availability is now back to 90 per cent, having fallen to as low as 55 per cent.

Pre-tax profits before exceptionals fell to just £100,000 for the year to 30 March after £4m of exceptional charges to cover the cost of addressing the warehouse problems. The group made £10m the year before.

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