Central Group, the Thai conglomerate, has assumed control of the operational entity overseeing London’s iconic Selfridges department store as financial challenges escalate for its Austrian partner, Signa.

In a significant move, Central Group, owned by the Chirathivat family in Thailand, converted a loan into equity, securing a decisive majority stake in the joint venture.

This strategic shift also empowers Central Group with control over additional department stores within the esteemed Selfridges group, including Ireland’s Brown Thomas and Arnotts, along with the Netherlands’ De Bijenkorf.

The joint venture, established by Thai and Austrian entities, orchestrated the acquisition of Selfridges for approximately £4 billion ($5 billion) around two years ago, marking one of the most substantial retail transactions in the UK.

As Signa, led by Austrian real estate tycoon Rene Benko, grapples with financial challenges, Central Group’s takeover aligns with a broader strategy to navigate the evolving retail landscape.

The recent transaction is linked to a six-month loan of about €360 million ($391 million) provided by Central Group in August, strategically replacing a £300 million multi-currency loan facility from Julius Baer Group Ltd initially used for Selfridges’ acquisition.

Selfridges, a retail institution established in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, is renowned for its flagship store on London’s Oxford Street. This strategic move positions Central Group as a key player in the dynamic world of global retail, ensuring a prominent presence in one of the world’s most prestigious department stores.

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