GBCorp group 'eyeing $2.4bn bid for retailer'
Manama, December 15, 2010
Bahrain's GBCorp is believed to be leading a regional consortium to launch a £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) bid for retailer Iceland Foods.
GBCorp has declined to confirm it was involved in a move for the frozen food chain but a representative of one of the largest shareholders in Iceland Foods said he had held talks with GBCorp.
Iceland Foods is 76 per cent owned by two collapsed Icelandic banks, Landsbanki and Glitnir.
The UK's Daily Mail has reported that the committee handling the collapsed Landsbanki managing director Magnus Magnusson confirmed that talks were being held with the Bahrain-based bank.
The committee is handling the assets of Landsbanki following its collapse in 2008.
He said the talks were at an early stage, but he declined to comment further.
In October the founder of Iceland Foods, Malcolm Walker, launched a £1 billion bid for the 750-store chain's operations but was turned down by the bank administrators.
Walker, along with other managers at Iceland Foods, currently own 24 per cent of the company and could return with a higher bid.
Walker is also understood to have the power to demand that his shares are bought if the majority shareholders decide to sell. Walker declined to comment.
GBCorp chairman Saleh Al Ali Al Rashed is believed to have visited London recently, meeting representatives of Lloyds Development Capital (LDC), the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group. LDC declined to comment on whether it was considering taking part in a bid for Iceland.
Al Rashed is a member of a leading business family in Saudi Arabia and a board member of Al Rayan Bank in Qatar.
The Iceland stores chain was bought in 2005 by the Icelandic retail group Baugur, which collapsed in February last year in the Icelandic financial crisis.
The controlling stake then passed to the administrators of Reykjavik-based banks Landsbanki and Glitnir, which had also gone bust in the meltdown.
These stakes are now owned by the Icelandic government.
Sales for the Iceland Food Group, which includes 50 of Walker's Cooltrader stores, increased from £2 billion to £2.2 billion in the year to March 26.
Underlying sales grew 4.3 per cent for the Iceland chain itself. Operating profit at the group rose 11 per cent to £184 million.-TradeArabia News Service