Walker drops Woolworths to buys bits of Iceland

Malcolm Walker, founder of the frozen food chain Iceland, is thought to have ended his interest in buying Woolworths, and is instead deciding whether to buy up chunks of his group owned by Baugur.

Mr Walker is believed to have withdrawn his £50m offer, rejected by Woolies chairman Richard North in August, although he hasn't ruled out picking up assets from the retailer if it falls into administration.

One City insider said: "Woolworths is pretty much off. It's not been totally scrapped but it's very much on the backburner."

Talks between Mr North and Mr Walker are thought to have ended two weeks ago, with no plans for additional meetings agreed.

Instead, Mr Walker is set to concentrate on buying up some of Baugur's stake inthe Iceland food group he runs following the turmoil in the investment company's domestic Icelandic market, which has seen three banks nationalised.

Mr Walker follows BHS-owner Sir Philip Green, who is this weekend in talks with the Icelandic government to buy up the debt held by Baugur in the collapsed banks, thought to be as much as £1.5bn.

In the wake of the developments last week, Baugur issued a statement "to make it clear that it will have no impact on Baugur's operations and its portfolio companies".

Sources close to Baugur said that while the group wasn't actively looking to sell stakes in any of its portfolio companies, the recent sale of its Julian Graves health food chain to Holland & Barratt showed it wasn't averse to doing deals at the right price.

Earlier in the week Mr Walker took the surprise step of writing to his suppliers to reassure them that the crisis in the country of Iceland would not have an averse effect on his business. None of the UK's three main credit insurers – Euler Hermes, Atradius and Coface – have yet pulled cover for companies supplying Iceland. Mr Walker claimed in the letter that the group has £180m of cash on deposit in several UK banks.

Last Friday, meanwhile, it was revealed that Sir Alan Sugar, star of 'The Apprentice' and founder of the Amstrad group, had taken a near 4 per cent stake in Woolworths, sending its shares up by 18 per cent to 3.7p. Shares in Woolworths have collapsed over the past year, falling from a high of more than 22.5p. The company now has a stock market capitalisation of just £52m.

Steve Johnson, the former Focus DIY group chief, took over as chief executive of Woolworths in September. One analyst said: "Sugar is taking a punt on this. If he does lose his stake, it really won't the end of the world given the money he's paid for it. You never know, he could clean up if Johnson turns it around."

Weeks before taking the helm Mr Johnson revealed to the City that the retailer had lost around £100m in the first half of the year, though a recent presentation to investors is thought to have been well received. Mr Johnson has secured the backing of his biggest shareholder, Ardeshir Naghshineh, who owns a 10 per cent stake in the company.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor