Selfridges sold to Thai, Austrian alliance in $ 5 billion deal

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Selfridges flagship store seen in Oxford Street in London.

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UK luxury store chain Selfridges is being sold to a Thai retailer and an Austrian real estate company in a deal that a source familiar with the matter said was worth around £ 4bn ($ 5.37bn ).

The central Thai group and the Austrian real estate company Signa Group, which already jointly own department stores across Europe, announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement with the most famous chain for its store on Oxford Street in London.

The Canadian wing of the Weston billionaire family bought Selfridges for almost £ 600million in 2003.

Central Group, owned by the billionaire Chirathivat family, and Signa by Austrian investor Rene Benko together own department stores in Germany, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland.

Founded in 1908, the Selfridges group employs 10,000 people and owns 25 stores around the world, including major cities in England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Canada.

Signa and Central will take over 18 of the 25 stores and hope to build a luxury hotel next to the Oxford Street flagship, the source said, adding that seven department stores in Canada were not part of the package.

With Selfridges, they hope to build an empire of luxury department stores, complemented by an online business.

The source said it plans to increase sales to 8 billion euros ($ 9.1 billion) by 2024 – including more than a billion online – from around 5 billion now.

The conglomerate will be managed from a holding company in London, with the possibility of a possible stock exchange listing, although local management of stores in other countries will remain, the source said.

Central opened its first department store in 1956, becoming Thailand’s largest mall owner with approximately 2,400 retail stores. It has an e-commerce joint venture with Chinese JD.com (9618.HK) and stakes in carpooling Grab Holdings in Southeast Asia.

Central has been present in Europe since 2011 with the acquisition of the upscale Italian department store chain La Rinascente SpA for 205 million euros. In 2013, it also acquired Illum, Denmark’s oldest department store.

In 2015, Central bought from Signa a majority stake in three luxury department stores in Germany. Last year, Central and Signa together bought Swiss luxury store Globus and other assets for more than one billion Swiss francs ($ 1.1 billion).

Central and Signa have also partnered with Japanese retail giant Aeon Co to develop an e-commerce platform for one of the world’s fastest growing online sports retail markets.

Benko has made a name for himself as a real estate investor. He purchased the iconic Chrysler Building in New York City in partnership with real estate company RFR Holding LLC for around $ 150 million in 2019.


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