Advertisement

Struggling ASOS explores sale of Topshop brand

ASOS, the London-listed online fashion retailer, is exploring a sale of the Topshop brand it bought from the wreckage of Sir Philip Green's collapsed retail empire less than three years ago.

Sky News has learnt that ASOS, which will publish its delayed full-year results next week, is at the early stages of a process that could see it offload what was once one of the best-known names on the high street.

City sources said this weekend that a sale was not certain to proceed, and it was unclear how much ASOS might raise from selling the brand.

It was unclear whether any talks are already taking place with potential buyers.

A potential disposal is said to be one of the options being examined by Jose Antonio Ramos Calamonte, who took over as chief executive last year.

He unveiled a 12-month turnaround plan last October focused on sharpening it operating performance and reducing costs, but has been caught in the vice-like grip of soaring inflation and declining consumer spending power.

Mr Calamonte has reduced stock by 30%, exceeding a key target, and refinanced part of its borrowings.

In May, ASOS announced it had secured £275m of new debt facilities from Bantry Bay Capital, a specialist lender which also has exposure to UK retailers including Superdry.

This week, it said it would delay its annual results and strategy update until next Wednesday to enable PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), its auditor, to "complete its planned testing".

The company, which has seen its shares plunge by 40% over the last year, bought Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands in February 2021 after a fiercely fought auction run by the administrators to Arcadia Group.

The deal valued the assets at £265m, although inventory and forward purchase orders took the overall price to £330m.

The disclosure that it may now be for sale again is likely to reawaken interest from some of the losing bidders in that process.

These could include ABG, the owner of Ted Baker and a stake in David Beckham's consumer brands business, and JD Sports Fashion.

Next would also be expected to examine an offer, having snapped up high street brands such as FatFace and a big stake in Reiss.

The most obvious bidder, however, would be Frasers Group, the high street conglomerate which owns retail names ranging from Sports Direct and Jack Wills to Evans Cycles and Gieves & Hawkes.

Frasers is already one of the biggest shareholders in ASOS, with its stakebuilding fuelling suggestions of a potential bid or attempt to engineer a merger with rival online retailer Boohoo.

On Friday, Sky News revealed that Frasers, founded by the billionaire Mike Ashley, was among the suitors circling WiggleCRC, owner of the online cycling brands Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, which has fallen into administration.

Topshop was the jewel in the crown of Sir Philip's empire for years, providing the platform for him to become feted as 'the king of the high street'.

In 2012, he sold a 25% stake in his Topshop and Topman subsidiaries to Leonard Green & Partners, an American private equity firm, in a deal that valued them at £2bn.

Shares in ASOS closed on Friday at 385.6p, giving it a market value of £467m.

An ASOS spokesman said: "ASOS as a policy does not comment on rumour or speculation."