The owners of iconic department store Liberty have extended the deadline for a sale of the business, because of poor market conditions.

In its interim management statement, MWB Group Holdings – which also operates property group MWB Business Exchange and boutique hotel business The Malmaison Group – said it would extend its Cash Distribution Programme until December 2010.

In a statement, MWB said: “Despite the continued growth of MWB’s operating businesses, the board recognises that the economic climate and credit crunch makes their sale by the end of 2008 less likely to be achieved at prices reflecting their current financial success and strong brand values.”

It added: “It remains the clear intention of the whole board to sell these businesses as soon as the market conditions recover significantly, to realise full shareholder value.”

It will review the timing of the process and has retained Lazard to oversee it.

MWB had previously extended the deadline for a sale of the businesses from the end of 2005 to the end of 2008 and, prior to that, from the end of 2002.

Sales and margins at the Regent Street store during the period from January 1 to April 10 have been “on budget”, while the wholesale division has shown growth, according to MWB.

Liberty will open its first standalone store devoted to its luxury own-label Liberty of London in June on London’s Sloane Street.