Mamut set to table Waterstone’s bid

RUSSIAN oligarch Alexander Mamut will make a formal bid for struggling high street book chain Waterstone’s as early as this week.

The Moscow-based billionaire will mount a cut-price £35m bid for the retailer, which is being sold off by its embattled owner HMV.

The bookseller had been valued at between £50m and £75m, yet Mamut could take advantage of HMV’s heavy debt burden to encourage a discount sale.

HMV has issued three profit warnings so far this year and is under pressure to raise money amid fears it could break its banking covenants.

It recently bought more time after it agreed with lenders an extension of its measurement period for its covenant test from the end of April to 2 July.

The move could give management the breathing space to weigh Mamut’s bid against potential rivals, although chief executive Simon Fox will be under pressure from shareholders to accept.

Mamut has been carrying out due diligence on Waterstone’s over recent weeks.

He had been linked with the chain’s founder, Tim Waterstone, over a joint bid. It is not clear whether Waterstone is involved in the bid at this stage, although the pair have worked together before and are known to be good friends.