Waterstones-owner Elliott plots £700m takeover bid for high street giant Currys

Business

Elliott Advisors, the owner of Waterstones, is plotting a £700m takeover of Currys, the London-listed electrical goods retailer.

Sky News has learnt that Elliott, best-known for its activist sieges against the boards of some of the world’s largest companies, is working on a bid for one of Britain’s best-known high street names.

This weekend, it was unclear whether Elliott had made a formal proposal to the board of Currys, although a conventional takeover premium of about 30% on the company’s current share price would value it at about £700m.

Currys employs more than 15,000 people in the UK, trading from about 300 stores.

In 2021, the company rebranded under its current name, having absorbed shops operating under brands including PC World, Dixons and Carphone Warehouse.

It was founded in 1884 by Henry Curry as a bicycle-building business before diversifying into the sale of toys, gramophones and radios when it listed on the London stock market in 1927.

Now led by chief executive Alex Baldock, Currys has been grappling with the same inflationary headwinds which have afflicted the rest of the retail sector and wider consumer economy.

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Last month, it reported a dip in like-for-like sales during the crucial Christmas trading period but was able to announce a modest upgrade to profit forecasts as a result of cost-cutting measures.

The company trades in eight countries, including Denmark, Finland and Sweden under the Elkjop brand.

In total, it employs 28,000 people and operates more than 800 stores.

A chunk of these are in Greece, where it has announced a £175m sale of its operations to the country’s Public Power Corporation.

Shares in Currys closed on Friday at 47.08p, giving it a market capitalisation of about £525m.

The stock has fallen by more than a third in the last 12 months.

A formal bid from Elliott would make the electrical retailer one of the most prominent London-quoted companies to face being delisted in the last year, amid a slew of so-called public-to-privates.

Elliott’s portfolio includes Waterstones, which is run by the prominent books retailer James Daunt.

Last year, it examined offers for Reiss, the fashion retailer, and The Body Shop, which was instead taken over by the financial investor Aurelius and is now in the hands of administrators in the UK.

In Britain, it has recruited the City grandee Sir Mike Rake as a senior adviser in an effort to forge more conciliatory ties with the boards of companies it invests in.

In recent years, it has built stakes in FTSE-350 companies including BHP, the mining giant, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, Hammerson, the shopping centre-owner, and Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn hotels.

At most of them, it has either pushed publicly or behind the scenes for strategic or management changes, and has earned a reputation as one of the most aggressive activist funds in the world.

Elliott Management, the US-based parent, was founded in the 1970s by Paul Singer with just over $1m under management.

It now manages over $55bn, and its London office is run by Mr Singer’s son, Gordon.

For several years, it was the controlling shareholder of AC Milan, striking a deal to sell the Italian Serie A club in 2022.

It retained a minority stake as part of the agreement with RedBird Capital Partners.

Currys declined to comment, while Elliott has been contacted for comment.

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