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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 11:38 GMT
House of Fraser gets bid interest
House of Fraser store in London

Private equity firm Apax Partners has been reported to be behind a bid approach for retailer House of Fraser.

The department store chain revealed on Friday it had received a tentative bid approach from an unnamed party.

The company, which operates about 60 department stores in the UK and Ireland, said it was not certain a formal bid offer would be made.

Several UK newspapers are reporting that Apax Partners was weighing up a possible bid.

Shares boost

Apax is reportedly pondering an offer of more than 300m in the next few days while stressing that negotiations were at a very early phase.

House of Fraser was the subject of takeover interest in 2003 when retail entrepreneur Tom Hunter considered making a bid at 85 pence per share but ultimately backed off.

News of the latest approach pushed the retailer's shares 4.2% higher to 118p on Friday, giving the business a stock market value of 279m.

Like many other High Street firms, House of Fraser has found trading difficult amid tough competition and a slowdown in consumer spending.

The firm made a 3m loss in the first six months of the current financial year, but experienced an improvement in sales in the run-up to Christmas.

House of Fraser has boosted its store portfolio in the past year buying the Beatties chain as well as landmark Edinburgh store Jenners.

It has also closed a number of stores including Dickins & Jones on London's Regent Street.

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