Jane Norman lenders ask PwC to find buyer

Marion Dakers
HIGH STREET fashion chain Jane Norman has been put on the block by PwC at the request of its lending syndicate, a source familiar with the process said yesterday.

PwC is thought to have sent out sale information on Jane Norman, which is majority owned by a group of 11 banks following the collapse of Kaupthing in 2008.

Jane Norman, which aims to sell mid-market fashionable clothes to 16-to-25 year olds, renegotiated the terms of its banking facilities at the end of 2009, postponing all debt repayments until March 2011 and relaxing future debt covenants.

As part of the deal it was taken over by its lenders, including Royal Bank of Scotland, with the syndicate taking advice from PwC since the deal.

The firm reported sales of £144.1m in the year to March 2010, according to its latest Companies House filing, with a £13.1m pre-tax profit.

The firm trimmed its headcount in 2010 by 7.5 per cent to just over 1,600 in a bid to reduce operating costs as the UK high street as a whole encountered lower sales.

The UK-focused store has over 200 branches, around roughly half of which are concessions within Debenhams department stores. It also operates a handful of franchises in Europe and the Middle East.

Debenhams, currently led by new British Retail Consortium head Rob Templeman (pictured right), has been identified as a potential rescuer, but the firm did not return calls for comment yesterday.

The firm has past form in buying up struggling concessionaires, having rescued the Principles brand after it collapsed in 2009.

Jane Norman was founded by the Freed family in north London in 1952, and had around 50 outlets when it was bought out by management and Graphite Capital in 2003 for £60m. The business changed hands again in 2005 when Icelandic retail-focused investor Baugur, backed heavily by Kaupthing, spent £117m on a takeover.

PwC declined to comment yesterday, while a spokesperson for Jane Norman did not respond to calls for comment.