Sears `not to sell Freemans'

Sears, the retail group that includes Selfridges and British Shoe Corporation, yesterday denied claims it plans to sell its Freemans catalogue business.

However the company admitted that it was considering replacing SBC Warburg as its merchant banker and has been holding meetings with other banks about a possible switch.

Many City analysts believe the Sears conglomerate sprawls over too many formats and that 3,000 stores is too many for management to keep a firm grip upon.

The company has been radically pruning the number of formats in its British Shoe division to concentrate on four or five names such as Shoe Express, Dolcis and Hush Puppy.

The number of Saxone stores will be reduced and Sears is also keen to off-load many of the high street Olympus sports stores which have been losing money. Many have speculated that Selfridges may be sold off.

Freemans, however, is a possible disposal candidate as the mail order group has been finding trading tough. Its profits have improved but the division still performs poorly compared with other mail order giants.