Sports Direct joins Etam and Bendon Group in the bid race over Agent Provocateur

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is understood to be joining the bid race to acquire ailing high end lingerie brand Agent provocateur. The new contender would be offering less than the 30 million pounds the brand’s current owner is looking to bag to repay Agent Provocateur’s mounting debts.

Sky News cited sources close to the matter to report over the weekend that it’s understood that the negotiations between Lion Capital, which is working with possible buyer Bendon Group (the company manufacturing Heidi Klum Intimates and Stella McCartney Lingerie), and Barclays stalled recently.

This twist nothing but eases things for Sports Direct International, which was earlier this month flagged as another potential bidder. Sky News’ sources insisted however on Monday that it remained a two-horse race, adding that the outcome remained unclear.

Other people with knowledge of the matter pointed out earlier this week that Sports Direct’s owner Mike Ashley would have tabled a 27.5 million pounds bid to acquire the troubled upmarket lingerie brand.

Mike Ashley bids at the low for Agent Provocateur offering 27 million pounds

According to ‘The Times’, Sports Direct is now believed to be up against French retailer Etam and private equity businesses Lion Capital and Terra Firma Capital Partners in the race to acquire Agent Provocateur.

It’s worth recalling that 3i – current owner of Agent Provocateur - had been hoping to secure bids in excess of 30 million pounds, the sum that Agent Provocateur owes to its lenders.

Private equity firm 3i has been at the lookout for a solution to its Agent Provocateur’s headache for months, looking to put an end to a 10-year relationship that has costed the investment group 60 million pounds worth’ the label’s acquisition and another further 39 million pounds in cash injections into the struggling retailer last autumn to sort out accounting irregularities.

3i said last year that Agent Provocateur had been "impacted by declining luxury spend in a number of its key markets", the effect of which had been exacerbated by "the inconsistent execution of its recent store expansion programme and the discovery of accounting issues".

As a result, in early January this year, restructuring experts from Alix Partners were appointed to come up with a turnaround plan ahead of an imminent auction – an insolvency process known as a pre-pack administration - of the business to be handled by Rothschild.

Sales in the year to March,28 2015 rose 16 percent to 61.7 million pounds, while pre-tax profits fell by more than 25 percent to 4.6 million pounds, informs Reuters.

Image: Agent Provocateur Lookbook SS2017, Agent Provocateur Web





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