Page last updated at 09:25 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Call for Woolworths to delay sale

Woolworths logo
Woolworths has had a presence on the UK High Street for almost a century

The largest shareholder of troubled High Street retailer Woolworths has called on the firm to delay plans to sell the business for just 1.

Property tycoon Ardeshir Naghshineh told the BBC that Woolworths should instead look at making money by selling off some of its 840 UK stores.

The 1 offer is said to come from restructuring firm Hilco, although no confirmation has been made.

Hilco would have to agree how much of Woolworth's 385m debt to take on.

'Market properly'

Without some form of a deal, analysts say Woolworths faces the real risk of going into administration.

Up to 20,000 jobs could be lost at the iconic and battered retailer

It is continuing emergency talks with its two main banks.

"Quite a lot of retailers now want to expand on the UK High Street," said Mr Naghshineh.

"If marketed properly, further afield, overseas, you'll probably get better value for them [the stores]."

BBC Business Editor Robert Peston said that "even on a best case outcome" for Woolworths, 20,000 of the firm's 30,000 UK workers could lose their jobs.

Both Hilco and Woolworths have declined to comment on whether they are in talks.

Losses

Shares in Woolworths have fallen by 92% over the past year.

The firm announced a record first-half pre-tax loss of 90.8m in September and scrapped its dividend to shareholders.

In August, it rejected a takeover bid of 50m for its 815 stores from a group headed by the founder of the Iceland frozen food chain, Malcolm Walker.

Woolworths has been an icon of the British High Street for almost a century. It also has a distribution business and a DVD publishing business.



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