So Debs has finally done it. The department store chain has announced the details of a much-anticipated share placing.
Debenhams wants to raise £323m to “take debt off the agenda” and allow the deal-making-junkie chief executive Rob Templeman to seek out opportunistic acquisitions.
Debenhams, which was floated at 195p a share in 2006 after a period in private ownership, has had to contend with £927m of debt on its balance sheet. While management say that they have been relaxed about Debs’ debt levels, the market has been less so.
The fundraising has followed an upturn in performance by the retailer, which reported first-half headline profit before tax up 10.7 per cent to £104.2m.
The fact that the new shares are expected to be priced at between 80p and 85p – shares closed at 92p yesterday – reflects shareholder appetite for the raising.
Private equity backers CVC and TPG are understood to be in favour of the placing, but are unlikely to take any shares themselves and have stepped down from the board. The raising is likely to lead to a 6 per cent dilution to their 20 per cent stake.
“It is a good turning point for the business,” said Templeman.
And so it would seem. The business has been trading well, debt will be off the agenda, the private equity stake will be down and institutional investors will be able to change the shareholder register. The remaining cash on the balance sheet of about £250m – after an early payment of £50m of the £150m due next year – allows Templeman and his team to take advantage of any acquisition opportunities that may arise, in a similar vein to its recent acquisition of Principles’ stock.Or they could pay down more of the retailer’s debt – which stands at £927m – although it is unclear what kind of discount they could get.
Debenhams has an acquisitive history, with Allders, Roches and Principles among its most recent buys. Templeman has surely got his eye on distressed businesses, such as Icelandic-backed businesses and even German group Arcandor, to which Debenhams has been linked before. Arcandor’s department store group Karstadt is crying out for a lifeline.
Interestingly, not so long ago Debenhams was the subject of bid speculation from the likes of the now defunct Baugur and investors including Landmark Group’s Micky Jagtiani while shares languished at an all-time low.
However, the steadfast Templeman and his team have stuck to their guns and look to be emerging winners.