Central ‘wants to acquire Signa retail assets’

Central ‘wants to acquire Signa retail assets’

Top Thai retailer looking at more luxury properties held by insolvent Austrian group

A Christmas tree is set up in front of the Kaufhaus des Westens — better known as KaDeWe — department store in Berlin in November 2023. (Photo: Reuters)
A Christmas tree is set up in front of the Kaufhaus des Westens — better known as KaDeWe — department store in Berlin in November 2023. (Photo: Reuters)

The Thai retailer Central Group wants to take over some more real estate assets from the insolvent Austrian property company Signa, including KaDeWe in Germany and Selfridges in London, Business Insider reported on Saturday.

Central is interested in Signa’s entire luxury group, which also includes Alsterhaus in Hamburg, Oberpollinger in Munich, and Globus in Switzerland, the German-language report said, citing unidentified sources at the Thai company.

The report noted that Central is already substantially invested in Signa’s luxury holdings.

Central could not be immediately reached for comment. A spokesperson for Signa’s restructuring administrator declined to comment.

Signa, the property empire founded by tycoon Rene Benko, has been one of the biggest casualties of Europe’s real estate crisis, with creditors filing claims worth billions of euros.

The group’s holding company, which sits at the centre of a web of hundreds of firms, has declared insolvency, as have its two main units, Signa Prime and Signa Development.

Central Group is in talks with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund about the iconic Selfridges department store in London, according to the Business Insider report.

Central wants to lift its stake in Selfridges to 60% and take control of the operating business, the report said. 

Central Retail Corp said in January that it was open to investing more in Selfridges if the opportunity met the right conditions.

The company will assess any new investment based on whether it aligns with Central Retail’s strategic business plan, is appropriately priced and has optimal timing, it said in a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand at the time.

Central Group took over Selfridges last November after converting a loan to equity, giving it the majority stake in the joint-venture operating companies within the Selfridges Group.

The transaction gave Central control over other department stores in the Selfridges Group, including Brown Thomas Arnotts in Ireland and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.

The investment in KaDeWe is a private investment by Central Group, controlled by the Chirathivat family, one of the country’s wealthiest families. It is not related to its listed units Central Retail and Central Pattana.

Central Group now operates the world’s largest international department store network, spanning 120 locations across 80 cities in 11 countries.

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