Jagtiani told Retail Week: “I’m very opportunistic and aggressive and hope we will make a deal in the near future.”
Jagtiani – who has a 10 per cent stake in Debenhams and teamed up with now-defunct investor Baugur in October 2007 to make a potential bid for US department store chain Saks – would not be drawn on whether he would snap up Baugur’s shareholdings.
As well as its stake in Saks, Baugur held a 13 per cent stake in Debenhams, now controlled by Icelandic bank Landsbanki. Baugur filed for bankruptcy last week.
However, Jagtiani did say that he was actively buying shares. “I see opportunities because the shares are undervalued,” he said. He added that Saks and Debenhams are “fundamentally strong businesses and will survive”.
This week, at its pre-close update, Debenhams revealed pre-tax profits would be ahead of last year’s£93m. Like-for-likes for the six months to February 28 fell 3.6 per cent, less than forecast.
Speculation remains that Debenhams’ complex shareholder base, which also includes private equity giants TPG and CVC, has been looking at ways to inject new equity into the debt-laden business.
Chief executive Rob Templeman said that Debenhams’ near-£1bn net debt had reduced ahead of internal expectations but would not disclose its present amount. As previously disclosed, Templeman said that Debenhams would make its£100m bank repayment in April.
The retailer’s robust performance was driven by sales of its own-brands. Market share grew at the group, as revealed by Retail Week last week.
Templeman said that in the past 26 weeks the department store group’s market share increased by 20 basis points. Menswear grew by 50 basis points. He added that womenswear “performed well”.
The retailer will bolster its Designers at Debenhams range with a home range from Ben de Lisi. The retailer also acquired Principles’ stock and a temporary licence to run the brand following the pre-pack administration of Mosaic.
Debenham's online push
Debenhams is to launch a comprehensive multichannel strategy later this year.
The initiative is in response to changing customer behaviour as shoppers increasingly view its stores and website as one brand.
Debenhams will introduce a click and collect service and web order points in its larger stores. The retailer will also launch its concessions online.
The push follows the launch last year of a buy online, return to store service. Debenhams head of direct David Worby said the aim of the strategy was not principally to widen its customer base, but added: “In the long term it will attract potentially younger shoppers.”