VCs circle as troubled owner weighs up sale
Buy-out firms are circling computer entertainment specialist Gamestation in anticipation of a sale by troubled owner Blockbuster.

Corporate financiers and venture capitalists are already doing the numbers on 205-store Gamestation, which claims to be the UK's 'fastest-growing retailer of video and computer games' and is second only to market leader Game.

However, no deal is likely ahead of Christmas. Blockbuster is still considering whether to proceed with a disposal, while private equity firms - spooked by Game's profit warning this week - want to gauge its festive performance.

Apax is understood to be among those interested in Gamestation. A deal could be agreed in its own right, or potentially engineered via its Silverscreen DVD chain.

Some private equity sources believe Blockbuster will struggle to offload Gamestation, because of the turmoil in the £2 billion games market.

Retailers have suffered supply problems, with manufacturer Sony struggling to meet demand for its PSP hand-held console. Similar problems are expected with Microsoft's Xbox 360, which launches today.

Game warned that its profits will come in at between£3 million and£13 million. If Gamestation has experienced similarly tough trading, Blockbuster may struggle to recoup the£30 million it paid for Gamestation in 2002.

One financier said: 'It's a horrible market to be in. It would be risky to buy in the hope of sales to come.' However, another interested in Game- station disagreed, saying: 'It's a tough market, but not impossible. I wouldn't rule it out.'

Potential bidders could also include store groups such as US group Gamestop, already viewed as a possible buyer of Game.

Shore Capital analyst John Stevenson said that uncertainty about Gamestation's future may help Game, which he expects to deliver strong sales next year.

Gamestation managing director Mike Logue would not comment on any sale, but said: 'We are concentrating on the next five weeks. The management is very focused on that and very positive about the future.'