OpCapita closes in on Comet with help from ex-Dixons boss

John Clare, the former chief executive of Dixons Retail, is advising private equity firm OpCapita on its bid to acquire Comet, the ailing British electricals retailer.

The pan-European group Kesa Electricals has been in talks with OpCapita and Hilco, the retail restructuring company, for months over the potential sale of the 248-store UK chain. The emergence of Mr Clare's involvement in the negotiations is the latest twist.

Dixons Retail owns Currys and PC World, which are the main rivals to Comet in the UK. If OpCapita did eventually gain control of the retailer from Kesa, then Mr Clare – who spent 22 years at Dixons Retail (formerly called DSGi) – may take an advisory role on a new board at Comet.

It is thought that Kesa, which owns the Darty electricals chain on the Continent, is now edging towards striking a deal with OpCapita over Comet. But Hilco could yet win the day and Kesa may decide to hang on to Comet, although Knight Vinke – the group's biggest shareholder with a 18.2 per cent stake – wants it to sell.

The electricals group had been expected to provide clarity on the position of Comet on 15 September, alongside a dreadful set of first-quarter sales in the UK. But Kesa merely said that its "Comet turnaround plan is under way" and that the firm is "continuing to examine strategic alternatives".

Negotiations between Kesa and the two suitors have been fraught with complications. This is largely because Comet has a pension deficit of £49m, a working capital requirement of about £50m and the City forecasts that its losses could double to £20m in the financial year to April.

However, in a recent development that could make a sale more likely, Kesa now appears willing to retain the Comet pension fund. Following talks with the pension regulator, Kesa could keep the scheme and pay into it over the next 10 years, even if it sells Comet.

Previously, it had been estimated that Kesa would have to invest more than £150m in total in Comet's future to convince the suitors to take it off its hands. The depth of Comet's problems was laid bare when it posted a 22.1 per cent plunge in like-for-like sales for the quarter to 31 July.

Comet was battered by consumers balking at big-ticket purchases of washing machines and fridges. It was also hit by weak sales of televisions compared to the boost it received during the football World Cup in 2010.

On a brighter note, Comet improved its gross margin by 80 basis points, driven by increased sales of higher-margin products, such as tablet computers. Its rivals are also struggling; Dixons Retail suffered a 10 per cent fall in UK sales for the 12 weeks to 23 July.

All parties declined to comment.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home