Predator Elliott returns with £750m bid for electricals chain Currys

Predator Elliott returns with £750m bid for electricals chain Currys

The investment firm which owns Waterstones has returned with a second offer for Currys, the electrical goods chain, amid investor hopes of a rare bidding war for a London-listed company.

Sky News has learnt that Elliott Advisors has tabled a marginally improved bid that insiders said was highly likely to be rebuffed by Currys’ board.

City sources said on Tuesday that the revised proposal valued Currys at between 65p and 70p-a-share, compared with an initial 62p-a-share bid worth £700m.

One shareholder in Currys questioned Elliott’s logic in submitting an offer of less than 70p after analysts and shareholders suggested that only a range of between 75p and 80 was likely to persuade the company to engage in discussions.

Elliott, which is known for its activist campaigns and investments in prominent assets such as AC Milan, the Serie A football club, has also acquired a string of retail businesses through its private equity investment team.

Both Elliott and Currys declined to comment.

Currys, which traces its roots back to 1884, when Henry Curry set up a bicycle-building business, is now at the centre of a potential bidding war.

More on Retail, the Chinese e-commerce giant, said last week that it was at the early stages of considering an offer.

Sky News revealed at the weekend that Amanda Thirsk, a former aide to Prince Andrew, is playing a role in evaluating JD’s interest in Currys.

The Takeover Panel has set a mid-March deadline for both Elliott and to lodge binding offers for the retailer or walk away.

Currys employs more than 15,000 people in the UK, trading from about 300 stores.

In 2021, the company rebranded under its current name, having absorbed shops operating under brands including PC World, Dixons and Carphone Warehouse.

Now led by chief executive Alex Baldock, Currys has been grappling with the same inflationary headwinds which have afflicted the rest of the retail sector and wider consumer economy.

Last month, it reported a dip in like-for-like sales during the crucial Christmas trading period but was able to announce a modest upgrade to profit forecasts as a result of cost-cutting measures.

The company trades in eight countries, including Denmark, Finland and Sweden under the Elkjop brand.

In total, it employs 28,000 people and operates more than 800 stores.

A chunk of these are in Greece, where it has announced a £175m sale of its operations to the country’s Public Power Corporation.

Shares in Currys were trading modestly higher on Tuesday morning at just over 67p, giving it a market capitalisation of about £756m.

The takeover interest has sparked a rally in Currys’ shares in the last eight days, having been languishing as low as 43p last October.

Elliott’s existing portfolio includes Waterstones, which is run by the prominent books retailer James Daunt.

Last year, it examined offers for Reiss, the fashion retailer, and The Body Shop, which was instead taken over by the financial investor Aurelius and is now in the hands of administrators in the UK.

In Britain, it has recruited the City grandee Sir Mike Rake as a senior adviser in an effort to forge more conciliatory ties with the boards of companies it invests in.

In recent years, it has built stakes in FTSE-350 companies including BHP, the mining giant, drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, Hammerson, the shopping centre-owner, and Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn hotels.

At most of them, it has either pushed publicly or behind the scenes for strategic or management changes, and has earned a reputation as one of the most aggressive activist funds in the world.

Elliott Management, the US-based parent, was founded in the 1970s by Paul Singer with just over $1m under management.

It now manages over $55bn, and its London office is run by Mr Singer’s son, Gordon.