Retail

Currys shares soar as Chinese online retailer enters takeover battle


A Chinese e-commerce company has said it is considering making an offer for Currys, sending the electronics retailer’s shares soaring amid hopes of a bidding war with private equity investor Elliott.

The share price of Currys surged by a third on Monday morning after JD.com revealed it was “in the very preliminary stages” of a cash takeover bid.

It faces competition from Elliott, which also on Monday confirmed it was considering an offer. Currys said on Sunday it had rejected a £700m preliminary offer from the US investment group, saying it “significantly undervalued the company and its future prospects”.

The UK electronics retailer’s share price closed up 36% on Monday. It peaked at 64.9p, its highest since March, although far below its peak of £5 a share at the end of 2015. The company was valued at £533m on Friday evening before the takeover approaches were first reported.

Currys 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 Exchange in 1927. It is now a member of the FTSE 250 index of mid-sized companies.

In 2021, Currys shifted its strategy to merge the four brands it operated – which included PC World, Dixons and Carphone Warehouse – into one central brand. It also shut 531 standalone Carphone Warehouse stores in 2020, with the loss of 2,900 jobs.

The retailer has struggled in the last two years with high inflation hitting demand across all of its markets. In July, it cancelled its dividend and cut spending in its Scandinavian operations.

Clive Black, the head of consumer research at Shore Capital, a stockbroker, said the bids were a sign of “the perils of lowly rated British equities, which have been selectively picked off for acquisition, often by private capital, in recent times”. Black added that the “performance and competence” of the UK government had pushed down the share prices of UK companies, leaving them vulnerable to foreign takeovers.

However, Black said he saw “brightening prospects” for UK consumers as inflation slows, which should benefit consumer goods firms who have been hit by a slowing economy.

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Currys’ largest shareholder is Redwheel, a hedge fund formerly known as RWC, with a 15% stake, according to S&P Capital Market Intelligence. Other shareholders include Frasers, the retail group owned by Mike Ashley that has bought stakes or taken over several struggling British brands.

Both Elliott and JD.com said there was no certainty that they would make a binding offer.



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