Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 19:22 UK

Retail tycoon in UK stores talks

Sir Philip Green
Sir Philip is keen to acquire leading UK High Street brands

Topshop and BHS owner Sir Philip Green has been in talks with officials in Iceland, which could lead to him buying several leading UK stores.

The billionaire may invest up to 2bn ($3.4bn) in debt held by Iceland's struggling retail group Baugur.

Baugur owns a clutch of famous UK High Street brands, including House of Fraser, Karen Millen and Hamleys.

The group owes money to Iceland's leading banks, whose assets were frozen by the government in Reykjavik.

Iceland has been forced to nationalise the country's main banks, in an effort to reassure investors who fear the financial system could collapse.

Responding to events globally, Sir Philip said there were "some pressures in the economy" in the wake of the current financial turmoil gripping share markets across the world.

But he said business in general was currently "not too bad", and warned: "if we keep frightening everybody and terrorising everybody it will feed on itself."

British focus

Sir Philip, who arrived in Reykjavik on Friday but has now left, told the BBC he had met Icelandic government ministers and officials from some of the country's banks.

"The Baugur group has some borrowings with these banks that have now been taken over, and therefore there was a discussion about my company acquiring the debt in these different banks," he said.

If a deal with Baugur goes ahead, it would give Sir Philip even more control of Britain's biggest clothing retailers and could attract the attention of competition authorities.

However, Baugur insisted the group's entire operations were not up for sale.

In the past few years the Icelandic company has increasingly focused on acquiring top UK High Street chains, and led a consortium which paid 350m for House of Fraser in 2006.

Sir Philip said he was waiting to hear "in the next 24 hours" whether there had been interest among officials in Iceland in his plan.




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