Woolworths shares suspended

WoolworthsShares in Woolworths have been suspended as talks to save the troubled retailer continue. It has also confirmed that it has been in talks over the sale of its 40% stake in publisher 2 Entertain to BBC Worldwide.

Woolworths says it “remains in discussions” over the potential sale of its 840 stores. In a statement, Woolworths adds that while talks “are being pursued with vigour” it is yet to agree terms.

“Both sales are subject, amongst other things, to the approval of the Group’s lending banks. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that a sale of the Group’s retail business or of its interest in 2 Entertain will be concluded,” the statement says.

The retailer, which also owns distribution business Entertainment UK, has reportedly been in talks to sell its retail business to Hilco, a company that specialises in turning around struggling businesses, for just £1 but that an agreement has not been reached on how much of Woolworths’ outstanding debt will be taken on.

The retailer, which opened its first store in 1909, rejected a £50m offer for its stores from Icelandic investment vehicle Baugur and retail entrepreneur Malcolm Walker in September. It also posted a £90.8m drop in underlying pre-tax profits for the six months to August 2 the same month.

A series of initiatives have been launched to boost sales including selling chart DVDs for less than £10, and installing concessions of fashion retailer Store 21 in its larger high street stores.

Chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones left the company in June and was replaced by Steve Johnson, the former chief executive of DIY chain, Focus.

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