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Private-equity firms form a queue to pick over Peacocks

A string of private-equity groups is circling Peacocks after the budget fashion chain collapsed into administration last week.

KKR, Permira, Sun European Partners and Cinven are all picking over the company, which faces becoming the biggest High Street casualty since Woolworths went under in 2008.

Peacocks' administrator, KPMG, will this week open a data room for prospective buyers of the business, with bids invited by next Monday.

Trade parties that have so far expressed interest are thought to include Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Select Retail, Poundland and Blue Inc, the youth fashion chain backed by former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose.

KPMG is continuing to trade Peacocks stores while it searches for a buyer. Late last week it made 250 people redundant at the group's Cardiff head office. Peacocks, whose chairman is former Asda supremo Allan Leighton, was struggling with debts of almost £700m when its lenders including Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland pulled the plug.

It has 563 shops and 48 concessions, but many are expected to be closed even if it finds a buyer.