Bid interest could put spotlight on fragile state of M&S recovery

 
Marion Dakers
BOTTOM LINE

M&S is once again the subject of takeover interest. Like Topshop owner Sir Philip Green before it, the latest rumoured suitor is already a well-established name in UK retail.

Qatar Investment Authority, the proud owner of 26 per cent of J Sainsbury, is known for its non-combative approach with boards, and seldom for punchy investment moves. The sovereign wealth fund is typically mute in public about its strategy, and its track record at Sainsbury’s, where it twice backed off from possible bids, make a sudden or hostile pounce on M&S seem unlikely.

A more pressing concern for M&S will be whether the nascent bid talk flushes out other, less patient, bidders. The retailer’s market cap of £6bn lingers far below Sir Philip’s £9bn offer in 2004, with a net debt pile barely changed at £1.86bn, and several quarters of falling sales to its name. Boss Marc Bolland might struggle to convince investors to reject an unsolicited offer, as his predecessor managed to do nine years ago.