Next has backed out of plans to buy Sir Philip Green’s collapsed retail empire Arcadia Group, potentially putting up to 13,000 jobs at risk.
In a statement, the high street chain said it had withdrawn from plans to buy the Topshop owner because it was “unable to meet the price expectations of the vendor”.
“Next wishes the administrator and future owners well in their endeavours to preserve an important part of the UK retail sector,” it added.
A consortium led by Next and Davidson Kempner Capital Management, a US investment firm, had been the frontrunner in a potential takeover deal with Arcadia, which collapsed into administration last year.
The move comes just days after Next and a handful of rivals tabled their final offers for Topshop, with a separate process being run for Arcadia brands Burton and Dorothy Perkins.
The group’s withdrawal may potentially clear the path for Chinese fast fashion giant Shein to scoop up the beleaguered retail chain.
Shein is understood to have tabled an offer worth more than £300m for Topshop and Topman, according to Sky News.
Other bidders include Boohoo, Asos and Authentic Brands Group, which is working with JD Sports Fashion.
Arcadia, which owns brands a host of other fashion titles including Miss Selfridge, Evans and Wallis, fell into administration in November, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.
Sir Philip bought the high street group in 2002 for £850m, paying out dividends of £1.2bn to his wife, registered owner Lady Christina Green, just three years later.