HMV lifted by Russian buyer

HMV Group saw its shares rise yesterday after Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut upped his stake to above three per cent.

The company’s stock had slumped 49 per cent this year as the DVD and CD seller, which also owns Waterstones, hit tough times.

HMV has been moving into live music events and venues as it tries to diversify its operation, as downloads have taken their toll on CD sales.

Nick Bubb, an analyst at Arden Partners, said in a note yesterday: “An investment of five million pounds is chicken-feed to Mamut at this stage, but his ultimate intentions are unclear.” Mamut bought 12.5m shares to raise his stake in the retailer.

Meanwhile HMV has registered the trademark “363”, based on the address of the company’s first shop, at 363 Oxford Street and could launch its own fashion label.

HMV, led by Simon Fox, has already brought out Studio, the clothing and accessories range, in September, which saw the company partner with selected fashion brands, including Boxfresh, Lee Jeans, FLY53 and Eastpak.

A spokesman at HMV said: “We recently successfully launched our new fashionwear offer at selected HMV stores around the country.

“Though we have no immediate plans, we may also look to develop an own-label option for HMV – most likely for the t-shirts, tops and the like, and we’ve registered the brand name 363 trademark.”

ALEXANDER MAMUT

ALEXANDER Mamut is a colourful figure in Russia’s business elite. Born into a family of Moscow lawyers, Mamut was a friend and political adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

With a fortune of £900m, he is the 655th richest man alive, according to Forbes.

The oligarch co-founded Imperial Bank in Russia, and also ran MDM-Bank. Mamut also made significant investments in Troika-Dialog, a Russian investment bank.

Mamut’s stake in HMV is only his latest foray into the communications industry. Mamut bought LiveJournal in 2007, a popular blogging site in Russia.

In 2008, he also purchased a 100 per cent stake in Euroset, Russia’s largest retailer of mobile head sets.

But he has backed failures too, such as Bookberry, a Russian bookstore chain, which went bankrupt in 2009.