Banks lining up to offer M&S advice on potential bids

THE BIG beasts of the investment banking world, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital, are said to have been knocking on the door of Marks & Spencer to offer the high-street retailer support in the event of a takeover bid.

The FTSE 100 company has been caught at the centre of fresh bid speculation after reports this weekend that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, was in the early stages of putting together an £8bn bid.

The reports come less than a year after speculation that the retailer could be in the sights of private equity groups.

Sources close to the group, which has traditionally been advised by Citi and Morgan Stanley, said there has recently been fairly heavy lobbying on behalf of Goldman and Barcap, who would both wish to offer their advisory services.

The QIA is reported to be looking to put together a consortium to bid for M&S and has approached several large private equity houses, including CVC Capital Partners, to gauge their interest in participating.

The investment fund, which is already a 26 per cent shareholder in J Sainsbury, has a track record as a co-operative shareholder, allowing executives at the supermarket chain and Songbird – the Canary Wharf owner in which it also holds a significant stake – to conduct business with little intervention.

A person familiar with the firm said a hostile approach would not be in keeping with this collaborative style, meaning M&S would need to support its bid.

Spokespeople for Qatar and CVC declined to comment. Marks & Spencer was not available for comment.