Thailand's Central Group and Austrian firm to buy Selfridges

Bangkok (AFP) – Thai retail giant Central Group is teaming up with Austrian property firm Signa to buy British luxury department store chain Selfridges, the companies said Friday.

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In July Canada's Weston family put up the British department store chain for sale with a £4.0 billion ($5.5 billion, 4.7 billion euros) asking price, according to media reports.

Central Group and Signa, a real estate and hospitality group, "have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Selfridges Group," the companies said in a statement.

"As family businesses, Central and Signa will focus on delivering exceptional and inclusive store and digital experiences for both local residents and overseas visitors alike," Central chief executive Tos Chirathivat said in a statement.

Central Group is owned by the Thai billionaire Chirathivat family and has scores of malls, electronics, grocery and 24-hour convenience stores across Thailand.

The firm has been on an ambitious overseas spending spree in recent years -- acquiring or partnering with luxury brands in Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

Selfridges, whose flagship store is on London's Oxford Street, was founded in 1908 but has been controlled by the Westons since 2003.

The acquisition covers 18 leading department stores including Selfridges in London, Manchester and Birmingham, de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland.

The Canadian business, Holt Renfrew, will remain with the Weston family, the statement said.

"I am proud to pass the baton to the new owners who are family businesses that take a long-term view," Selfridges Group chair Alannah Weston said.

Signa flagged a revamp of stores.

"Together we will work with the world's leading architects to sensitively reimagine the stores in each location, transforming these iconic destinations into sustainable, energy-efficient, modern spaces, whilst staying true to their architectural and cultural heritage," said Dieter Berninghaus, Signa executive board chairman.

Shares in the Central Retail Corporation -- the publicly listed subsidiary of Central Group -- were down 1.44 percent Friday.