Central Group, a prominent Thai conglomerate, has recently announced its acquisition of the company that operates the renowned British department store, Selfridges. This takeover comes as Central Group’s Austrian partner, Signa, continues to face financial difficulties. In order to gain control over the joint-venture operating company, the Chirathivat family, who own the Thai retail group, converted a loan into equity and now hold a majority stake. This transaction also grants Central Group control over other department stores within the Selfridges group, including Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland, and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.

Approximately two years ago, the Thai-Austrian joint venture purchased Selfridges for a staggering £4 billion ($5 billion), positioning it as one of the largest retail deals in recent years in the UK. In addition to Selfridges, the business partners also co-own the Globus department stores in Switzerland and Germany’s KaDeWe. However, Signa’s financial troubles have sparked concerns among investors, leading them to hire a restructuring expert.

To facilitate the Selfridges deal, Central Group provided a six-month loan of around €360 million ($391 million) in August, which replaced the £300 million multi-currency loan facility from Julius Baer Group Ltd that was initially used for the department store’s purchase, as stated in corporate filings. Selfridges, founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, is globally recognized for its iconic store on London’s Oxford Street, attracting fashion enthusiasts from around the world. The store was previously owned by the Weston family from Canada.

One of Selfridges’ most valuable assets is its prime real estate in central London. Despite the challenges faced by the UK retail sector in recent years, Selfridges remains a highly coveted asset. Oxford Street, the location of the store, has experienced an increase in vacancies, rising inflation rates, and a growing issue with street crime, which has deterred some shoppers. However, this takeover will not impact the ownership of the underlying properties, as confirmed by a Central Group spokesperson.

Central Group’s acquisition of Selfridges represents a significant development in the retail industry, showcasing the struggles faced by Signa and demonstrating the ongoing interest in prestigious assets like Selfridges, despite the challenges within the UK retail market. With the Chirathivat family now in control of the department store and other affiliated businesses, they solidify their position as influential players in the international retail sector. As Central Group assumes leadership, it will be intriguing to witness how they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the retail industry while enhancing the reputation and success of Selfridges and its sister stores.

Useful links:

1. Selfridges official website
2. Central Group official website