Central Group, Thailand’s largest department store operator, has taken control of the company that runs London’s landmark Selfridges department store after the financial woes of its Austrian partner Signa deepened.
The retail group owned by the Chirathivat family has converted a loan into equity and will gain a majority stake in the joint-venture operating company, it said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The transaction also gives Central control over other department stores in the Selfridges group, including Brown Thomas & Arnotts in Ireland and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.
The Thai-Austrian joint venture bought Selfridges for about £4 billion in 2021 in one of the biggest UK retail deals in years. The business partners also co-own the Globus department stores in Switzerland and KaDeWe in Germany.
Signa, controlled by the Austrian real estate tycoon Rene Benko, is being closely watched by investors after hiring a restructuring expert amid financing difficulties.
The Selfridges deal is based on a six-month loan of about €360 million that Central Group provided in August, Bloomberg reported earlier, citing people familiar with the financing.
That loan replaced a £300-million multi-currency loan facility by Julius Baer Group used for the initial purchase of the department store, corporate filings show.
Selfridges, founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, is best known for the giant store on London’s Oxford Street that has long been a magnet for fashion enthusiasts. It was long owned by the Weston family of Canada.
A considerable part of the value of Selfridges lies in its significant chunk of real estate in central London.
The transaction will leave the ownership of the companies holding the underlying properties unchanged, according to a spokesperson for Central Group.
Selfridges is considered a trophy asset even though UK retail has endured a difficult few years with the highest inflation in decades. Oxford Street has also struggled in the past with rising vacancies and growing levels of street crime, which has deterred some shoppers.