Sears dismisses takeover bid rumours

SEARS, the struggling retail group, yesterday dismissed suggestions that it had received an offer of 330p per share for the company from Philip Green, the retail entrepreneur. The price would have valued Sears at around pounds 500m.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Mr Green had last week sent a fax to Sir Bob Reid, Sears' chairman, seeking the board's recommendation for a 330p offer.

A Sears spokesman said: "If Mr Green and his team did send a fax we certainly didn't receive it. Perhaps they would like to check they have got the right number."

There has been persistent speculation that Mr Green is poised to launch a bid for Sears at around 300p per share. But although the share price has been rising, Mr Green is yet to make a move. There have been no meetings between Mr Green and Sears and Mr Green has not sought an audience with Sears' institutional investors.

Retail experts said it was strange that noone made a move when Sears shares hit a low of 150p several months ago.The shares now stand at 267.5p.

Some doubt Mr Green will launch a bid and question whether he has sufficient backing. The former Amber Day chairman, whose interests include the Mark One fashion chain and the Own Owen department stores, is thought to have support from private investors. But retail experts said venture capital groups would only back a deal following a thorough due diligence process.

Analysts are further perplexed about the timing of Mr Green's interest. Britain's retailers are facing the toughest Christmas in years and Sears' already struggling high street operations are unlikely to avoid the downturn. It is due to issue a statement on Christmas trading in January and analysts feel any potential bidder would be more likely to wait until those details on performance can be assessed.

Mr Green, who has already conducted several deals with Sears, including the purchase of Olympus Sports and Shoe Express, is mainly interested in its high street operations, which include Wallis and Miss Selfridge.