Womenswear chains Oasis and Warehouse are on the auction block again with the problems linked to the coronavirus pandemic believed to be behind the move on the part of its owner, Icelandic lender Kaupthing.
It has reportedly held conversations with possible buyers in recent days, according to Sky News.
Oasis and Warehouse have a major presence in the UK and employ 2,300 people. They have over 500 stores between them (just over 100 directly-operated and the rest concessions, some of them in Sainsbury’s supermarkets).
But the performance has been patchy, despite a return to modest profits in its latest set of results (the year to March 2019).
The company has battled a number of problems during several tough years, including its suppliers seeing their credit insurance being removed at one point in 2018. However, it had looked to be set to turn a corner with those most recent results.
The company had been up for sale in 2017, but that process was eventually axed with speculation that potential bidders were offering too low a price.
It had been reported at the time that the owner wanted £100 million for its fashion assets but the final bidder in the auction was offering only £60 million. The retailers’ then CEO, Paul Copley, suggested there was more value in the chains than £60 million would suggest. “We feel the market does not currently recognise the value we see in the business,” he’d said.
Clearly Kaupthing still wants to shed its commitment to the two chains. The bank, which failed and was taken over by the Icelandic government during the financial crisis, only owned them because of the collapse of their previous owner Baugur.
"Like all businesses operating in these unprecedented times, we continue to work on how we can best navigate through the current challenging circumstances following the Covid-19 outbreak," a spokeswoman told the news organisation.
The current sale process is being run by Deloitte, Sky News said.