Book retailer Waterstones could be put up for sale next year as its owner, the Russian tycoon Alexander Mamut, explores options with bankers from Rothschild.
Waterstones, which Mamut bought from HMV in 2011, has weathered the rise of e-readers to return to profits in the past year.
It is understood that Mamut brought in NM Rothschild over the summer to prepare the ground for a possible sale or a refinancing to replace Waterstones’ loan facility with Russian Commercial Bank.
However, the process is not expected to begin in earnest until Waterstones is through the Christmas rush, which produces 85 per cent of the retailer’s profits.
Meanwhile, Mamut has been hit by the state bailout of the Russian bank Otkritie, which is reportedly asking backers including him to help repair its finances.
Waterstones reported a pre-tax profit of £9.9m in the year to April 2016. Sales in that year rose four per cent to £409m, delivering a pre-tax profit of £9.9m, as the retailer felt the benefit of a decision several years ago to allow each branch to order its own books, rather than take bulk orders from the publishers.
According to the Sunday Times the firm’s next set of accounts will show underlying earnings of almost £40m, meaning the business could command a value of between £200m and £300m.
Waterstones declined to comment.