Debenhams mulls Magasin du Nord sale to raise cash

Debenhams said this week that it could dispose of certain assets as it seeks to conserve cash and focus more intensely on fixing its core UK business.


Magasin du Nord

Following its latest trading update and yet another profit warning, the company suggested it could sell its profitable Danish operation, Magasin du Nord, as it works through a transformation programme designed to address fundamental changes in shopper behaviour and the shift online.

And that puts the six Magasin du Nord stores in the frame, despite the unit delivering higher sales and operating profits in recent periods. Debenhams acquired it for £12.3 million in 2009 and while it might seem counter-intuitive to sell a profitable unit, its value is likely to be much higher today and this will be a major factor for the company that’s seeking to maximise its cash flow.

The company has reined in its capex plans from £140 million this year, down to between £75 million and £90 million for next year and launched a strategic review of assets its sees as non-core.

Investors don’t seem very confident that it will succeed in its turnaround and its shares fell almost 20% after the update. Five years ago they were worth around 108p each and even last autumn they traded as high as 50p each. But at time of writing they were only a little over 17p.

Debenhams also said on a conference call after its update that House of Fraser store closures could benefit its business in some areas, such as in London’s Oxford Street where the two stores are currently next door to each other.

Its finance chief Matt Smith said that there would be an overall benefit, but it would differ from store to store. Debenhams has 18 stores in the same locations as HoF stores.

On the same call, CEO Sergio Bucher said that one of the biggest problems for Debenhams has been declining footfall and that cutting back on discounts is a major priority for the company.

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