Woolies rejects Iceland bid approach

Beleagured retailer Woolworths has rejected a bid from Malcolm Walker, founder and chief executive of frozen food chain Iceland, because the offer “undervalued the retail assets and the potential profits of the business.”

The bid, thought to be around £50m, was made for its 815 stores just days after Woolworths announced the appointment of Steve Johnson, the former chief executive of Focus DIY, to the same role.

Reports suggest that a consortium headed by Walker and Icelandic investor Baugur, which already holds a 10% stake in the retailer, made a formal approach to Woolworths chairman Richard North. The consortium is not interested in acquiring EUK, the retailer’s entertainment wholesale division or 2 Entertain, its music and video publishing joint venture with the BBC.

The move to acquire Woolworths by Iceland would have seen Walker return to the company that fired him almost 40 years ago. Walker joined the retailer’s Wrexham branch as a management trainee in the mid-1960s. He was fired from his position as deputy manager in 1971 after it was discovered that he was moonlighting in another job – setting up Iceland.

Walker was ousted from Iceland in 2001 following a share sale, but he returned four years later after he bought it with a Baugur-led consortium in 2005.

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