Next in talks to buy 25% stake in troubled Joules
The fashion, homewares and beauty retailer is in talks with Joules to buy a 25% stake, with negotiations having gone on for several weeks.
There was speculation that an announcement would be forthcoming after a weekend news report, and Joules confirmed the talks on August 8.
It said: “Joules confirms that it is in discussions with Next Plc about adopting its Total Platform services to support the group's long-term growth plans. Additionally, in conjunction, Joules confirms it is in discussions with Next about a potential equity investment raising proceeds for Joules of c.£15 million at no less than Joules' current market price, which would result in Next becoming a strategic minority shareholder in the group. The equity investment would be subject to approval by Joules' shareholders. There can be no certainty these discussions will lead to any agreement. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”
It’s logical that any equity stake would also involve Joules using the Next Total Platform and that would make good commercial sense for the smaller firm as that platform is known for its slick efficiency.
Joules has had both ups and downs in recent years, the latter including some missteps, as well as problems (such as the pandemic) not of its own making. It has issued profit warnings and last month hired KPMG to help with its liquidity situation. It subsequently agreed an extension to its banking facilities.
Despite operating around 130 stores and employing more than 1,000 people, the company has lost a lot of value in the last year with its share price down almost 90%, giving it a market capitalisation of only £37 million.
That would make the acquisition of a 25% stake by Next a pretty cheap deal for the retail giant.
It's unclear how any deal would be structured and whether it might include an option to buy an even bigger holding, something that Next has had written into previous stake purchases with other companies.
Although Next was originally known for its own label, over the years it has expanded into a multi-brand business, which includes selling third-party brands and also investing in companies or taking outright ownership of them.
It has category license deals with Ted Baker, partnerships with Laura Ashley, Gap and Victoria’s Secret, owns Jojo Maman Bébé as part of a consortium, and has a 25% stake in Reiss with an option to increase that.
With such links to a large number of brands either via licenses or ownership, it’s no surprise that the company's name is often mentioned as a potential bidder when brands come up for sale.
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