House of Fraser, the 165-year-old chain of department stores, has agreed to be taken over by a Chinese conglomerate for £450m. Sanpower, a retail, technology and real estate group headed by multimillionaire Yuan Yafei, is to take an 89% stake in the chain. It marks China's biggest investment in a UK retailer.
But it emerged early this week that Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, who has been eyeing up House of Fraser for some time, has prevented the Chinese taking full control by snapping up an 11% stake. He has reportedly failed to buy out other shareholders, however, and is thought to be willing to sell his stake to Sunpower.
What the commentators said
Not only will the famous brand boost his sales in China, but Chinese firms involved in both retail and real estate can use established brands to help them secure better property deals mall owners wanting to cash in on House of Fraser's cachet will offer better terms.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
More broadly, the deal is crucial to expanding Sunpower overseas and learning how to manage international brands, noted Andrea Felsted in the FT. A small Israeli acquisition has hitherto been the group's only foray abroad.
Many will bemoan yet another UK company falling into Chinese hands, said The Daily Telegraph. But it's been a long time since House of Fraser could truly be called British. In 1985 it was bought by Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed; in 2006 it was taken private by Baugur, the Icelandic retailer that collapsed two years later. Now the brand is heading to a huge new market with a growing middle class "the retailer's target audience".
The good news is that Yuan is described as a "forthcoming" and smart" leader, said the FT's Duncan Robinson. He will need to be "to sell the venerable brand to savvy Chinese shoppers".
Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.
After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.
His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.
Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.
December 2023 NS&I Premium Bond winners - check now to see what you’ve won
If you hold money in NS&I Premium Bonds, you can check from today (2 December) to see if you have won in the December prize draw. Here’s how to check.
By Vaishali Varu Published
OpenAI – corporate drama unleashed
OpenAI, the firm behind ChatGPT, was in uproar as its boss was booted out, briefly snapped up by Microsoft and then brought back again.
By Dr Matthew Partridge Published