Electronics company sell-off put on back burner

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PLANS to sell a Rotherham-based electronics business have been put on hold as a result of the downturn on the British high street.

The owner of Maplin Electronics, Montagu Private Equity, had been in talks over selling the business for up to £400 million.

The group had been brokering a deal with a trio of private equity rivals.

The trio of parties are believed to have comprised Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners and Advent International.

But after months of talks over valuation led by advisers KPMG, discussions have now ended after Montagu felt that the price was not high enough.

Montagu is understood to have changed its plans, seeking to hold on to the business for at least another year in the hope of an eventual upturn in the retail sector.

Two of the UK’s biggest electrical retailers - Comet owner Kesa and Currys’ parent Dixons Retail - are expected to spark further fears over the health of the retail sector when they report annual results this week.

Maplin saw like-for-like sales fall by three per cent in the past month, with footfall in its 180-plus stores down eight per cent on the same period last year.

It also takes a significant amount of sales from its online presence but even that is believed to have been hit by the squeeze on consumer spending.

Montagu bought Maplin, which employs almost 2,200 staff, in 2004 for £244 million from Graphite Capital as part of a secondary buy-out with management.

The company’s most recent accounts show that the business made a pre-tax loss of £32.7 million, against a loss of £26.1 million the previous year. The report referred to a ‘very difficult trading environment’.

n Business: P25.