Property king moves into Merchant stores

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The Independent Online
ANDREW PERLOFF, the property entrepreneur, has quietly amassed a sizeable stake in Merchant Retail Group, the loss-making regional supermarket and department store chain.

The stake is still below the 3 per cent threshold at which shareholders in quoted companies have to disclose their holdings. Nevertheless, it has been flushed out by the company.

Mr Perloff acquired his holding earlier this year, prompting speculation that he was planning to instigate a corporate shake-up at the group. He was also seen at the company's annual meeting last month, when he raised some detailed questions about its finances. The move has led to a growing belief in the City that he is plotting sweeping changes at the group.

Mr Perloff, who is understood to be on holiday, is best known for leading a boardroom coup at Etonbrook Properties in April 1992.

Some City observers believe Mr Perloff has been attracted by Merchant's break-up potential. Its property assets were valued at pounds 32m last year, compared with the group's pounds 11m market value.

The group, which recently appointed James Power, the former finance director of Storehouse, as chairman, reported a pounds 5m loss for the year to 2 April. It owns the Normans grocery shop chain in the West Country and the Joplings department stores in the North of England.

Debts forced it to put the 19 grocery stores up for sale last year, but it has rejected several offers.

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