Coronavirus: Oasis and Warehouse fashion sale plan

Tuesday 24th March 2020 14:15 GMT

Sky News has learnt that The Oasis and Warehouse Group, which is owned by the failed Icelandic lender Kaupthing, has held conversations with potential buyers in the last few days.

The company employs 2,300 people.

The decision to consider a sale comes amid the most turbulent period in the history of the British high street, with all "non-essential" retailers ordered by the government to shut from Tuesday.

Oasis and Warehouse, which target fashion-conscious female customers, trade from just over 90 standalone stores and a further 437 concessions in department stores such as Debenhams and Selfridges.

The talks about a sale, which are being run by Deloitte, reflect an unprecedented period of soul-searching by retailers as they explore options to bolster liquidity and plot a path back towards normal trading.

"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 for the company said.

"Whilst this remains a key focus for the company, Oasis and Warehouse are strong brands and we have very recently received inbound interest from strategically aligned parties regarding a potential transaction.

"We remain in dialogue with these parties, but there is no certainty at this stage that this will lead to a transaction."

It is not the first time that Kaupthing has held talks with bidders for brands that it was left owning after the 2008 financial crisis.

Last year, it sold Karen Millen and Coast to Boohoo, the successful online clothing business.

That deal, on which Deloitte also advised, was implemented through a pre-pack administration.

It was unclear on Tuesday whether a similar process would be used to expedite a sale of Oasis and Warehouse.

The chains are run by Hashim Ladha, a former executive at Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group and Asos, the online fashion retailer.

People close to Oasis and Warehouse say the company had shown evidence of a turnaround in its performance under Mr Ladha, but that its prospects had been derailed by the pandemic.

Insiders said that the future ownership of Oasis and Warehouse was expected to be determined in the coming weeks, although the current shutdown could delay the outcome of a sale.

In the last fortnight, Laura Ashley has plunged into administration, with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Doubts have also been cast over the future of Cath Kidston, the modern vintage designer, which has appointed Alvarez & Marsal to run an accelerated sale process.

Retailers across Britain are scrambling to deal with the financial consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Scores of prominent chains will refuse to pay their landlords this week when their quarterly rent bills fall due.

Many are hoping to receive emergency funding from the government through schemes to pay staff up to 80% of their salaries - as long as they do not make them redundant - and to defer VAT payments.

However, most retailers' creditworthiness means they will not be eligible to participate in the £330bn Covid Corporate Financing Facility unveiled by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, last week.

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