Green Delays Arcadia Results as Pressure Builds on Billionaire

  • Topshop owner “not in the mood” to discuss current trading
  • Sale of company not on the agenda, U.K. retail magnate says

Billionaire Philip Green has broken from tradition and delayed releasing results for his Arcadia Group fashion empire as he grapples with faltering sales and market share, and the fallout from the demise of department-store chain BHS.

Green, under fire from lawmakers for selling BHS to an unsuitable buyer and leaving behind a significant pension deficit, said he’s “not in the mood” to discuss Arcadia or its results. Every year since acquiring the owner of Topshop in 2002, the retail magnate has disclosed annual figures before the end of November. As a private company, Arcadia has until May 31 to file its accounts.

“You do feel that if Arcadia had had a good year, Green would be quite quick to tell us given the amount of bad publicity he’s faced,” Richard Perks, an analyst at researcher Mintel, said by phone.

Pressure is building on Green after U.K. lawmakers backed stripping him of the knighthood he was awarded a decade ago. The entrepreneur is being pursued by the U.K. Pensions Regulator to come good on his promise to help plug a deficit of at least 571 million pounds ($726 million) in BHS’s pension fund, while a decline in Arcadia’s market share has been compounded by a loss of selling space for brands that had concessions inside BHS stores.

In a brief phone conversation, Green said Arcadia was “doing well and picking up.”

No Sale Process

According to researcher Verdict, the company’s share of the 42.8 billion-pound U.K. fashion market has fallen to 3.8 percent from 6.3 percent in 2012. And BHS’s collapse earlier this year is set to knock as much as 100 million pounds a year from sales of about 2 billion pounds, estimates Richard Hyman, an independent retail analyst.

Arcadia has tried to recover some of the lost BHS business through an agreement with Tesco Plc to put some of its brands in a number of the supermarket chain’s outlets.

Green is open to selling the retailer, though any potential buyer would need to take into account deteriorating trading and a pension deficit, according to people familiar with the matter. There’s no formal sale process, the people said. Green downplayed suggestions he may consider seeking offers, saying a sale “isn’t on the agenda.”

Arcadia’s pension deficit was 189.6 million pounds in the year through August 2015, since when government bond yields have fallen, increasing the size of the liabilities in many U.K. corporate programs.

Leonard Green

Aside from Topshop, which has a U.K. flagship store on London’s Oxford Street and outlets in dozens of other countries, Green hasn’t given Arcadia’s brands the requisite investment to remain competitive, said TCC Global retail analyst Bryan Roberts.

“You’d struggle to think of anyone queuing up to take Wallis or Burton off his hands,” Roberts said. “They’re not aspirational, go-to brands. The competition hasn’t been standing still, but Arcadia has.”

Even Topshop isn’t worth what it once was. Leonard Green & Partners LP, a Los Angeles-based private-equity firm, has written down the value of its 25 percent stake, according to a person familiar with the matter. The holding in the Topshop and Topman chains cost 500 million pounds when it was purchased in 2012. Leonard Green declined to comment.

“The obvious thing would be for Leonard Green to buy the rest of the business,” said Gavin George of Alteri Investors, a retail investment group.

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