French Connection chief seeks to sell off controlling stake

Emily Nicolle
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A man enters the site where British fash
French Connection was popularised under its controversial nickname FCUK in the 1990s (Source: Getty)

French Connection founder Stephen Marks is sounding out potential buyers for his controlling stake in the retailer, it emerged today, in a deal which could trigger a takeover of the whole business.

Advisers from Numis Securities, acting on Marks' behalf, have been speaking to prospective bidders this week about the 42 per cent shareholding, sources told Sky News.

As a future deal could come close to affecting the future of French Connection's ownership under City rules, the company may have to make an announcement regarding the talks next week.

However it is understood that the process is currently only exploratory and may not result in a sale.

Read more: French Connection shares fall as losses widen on decreasing sales

This is the firm's second entry into takeover territory this year, after it received an unsolicited offer from an unnamed US bidder in March that ultimately did not come to fruition.

French Connection said in its most recent results that it expects to achieve profitability by the end of the financial year, despite posting a £15m loss in the first six months of 2018.

Retail tycoon Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct and takeover heavyweight, owns a 27 per cent stake in French Connection. It is not known whether he is one of the prospective bidders involved in the talks.

Ashley has been rumoured in recent weeks to have tabled bids for a number of retailers after buying department store House of Fraser out of pre-pack administration, a list which includes Evans Cycles and American Golf.

Read more: Sports Direct's Mike Ashley tees off in bidding war for American Golf

French Connection declined to comment.

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