UK billionaire Ashley lines up US$121mil bet on malls

A woman leaves a House of Fraser store in Bristol, Britain, August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON: Billionaire Mike Ashley is in advanced talks to buy two UK shopping malls valued at a combined £100mil (US$121mil or RM515.2mil), The Times newspaper reports.

Ashley’s Frasers Group Plc is lining up bids for The Mall in Luton, a town just north of London, and the Overgate Shopping Centre in Dundee, Scotland.

The deals would value the malls at about £70mil (RM359.4mil) and £30mil (RM154mil) respectively, the report said, without saying where it got the information.

Frasers declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

The clothing retailer is hunting for bargains as the UK consumer industry struggles to recover from lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered shops and malls.

The reported valuation for the Overgate mall would represent a big loss for Legal and General Group Plc, which paid Land Securities Group Plc £125mil (RM641.7mil) for the site nine years ago.

Frasers’ interest in buying the Overgate mall was first reported by the trade publication React News, The Times said.

Purchasing either asset would mark Ashley’s first ownership of a shopping mall, a prospect that could unnerve his retail rivals, who would end up as his tenants.

While the former Newcastle United Football Club owner was in pole position to buy both sites, negotiations are ongoing and it was not certain that the deals would be completed, the report added.

In 2007 he bought Newcastle United for US$161.5mil (RM687.6mil) and sold it in October 2021 US$361mil (RM1.5bil) to a consortium.

In 2021, The Sunday Times Rich List had Ashley as the 61st richest person in the United Kingdom with an estimated net worth of US$3.28bil (RM13.97bil). — Bloomberg

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