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Mr Walker is believed to have withdrawn his £50m offer, rejected by Woolies chairman Richard North in August, although he hasn't ruled out picking up assets from the retailer if it falls into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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Adviser - OTE £24,500

£22500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Inbound and outbound calls with...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

Guru Careers: Research Associate / Asset Management Research Analyst

£40 - 45k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Research Associate / Research Anal...

The Green Recruitment Company: Graduate Energy Analyst

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Summary: The Green Recruitm...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash