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Selfridges offered to Thai and Austrian alliance in $5 billion deal By Reuters

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© Reuters. A woman wearing a protective mask walks past a Selfridges store on Oxford Street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, July 28, 2020. REUTERS / Hannah McKay

By Matthias Inverardi

DÜSSELDORF (Reuters) – British luxury chain store Selfridges is being sold to a Thai retailer and an Austrian real estate company valued at around £ 4 billion (US $ 5.37 billion).

Thailand’s Central Group and Austrian real estate company Signa Group, which already jointly own large department stores across Europe, announced Thursday that they had closed a deal for the chain, best known for its Oxford Street store in London.

The Canadian wing of the billionaire family Weston bought Selfridges in 2003 for nearly £ 600 million.

The Central Group, owned by the billionaire family Chirathivat, and Signa, owned by Austrian investor Rene Benko, jointly own department stores in Germany, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland.

Founded in 1908, the Selfridges Group employs 10,000 people and has 25 stores worldwide, including major cities in England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Canada.

Signa and Central will take over 18 of the 25 stores and hope to build a luxury hotel next to the flagship Oxford Street, the source said, adding that seven department stores in Canada are not part of the package.

With Selfridges, they want to build a luxury department store empire, supplemented by an online business.

The source said they plan to grow sales to 8 billion euros ($ 9.1 billion) – of which more than 1 billion online – from around 5 billion today by 2024.

The conglomerate is managed by a holding company in London, with the possibility of an eventual listing on the stock exchange, although local management of business in other countries will be retained, the source said.

Central opened its first department store in 1956 and grew to be the largest shopping mall owner in Thailand with around 2,400 retail stores. It has an e-commerce joint venture with China’s JD (NASDAQ :). Com and holdings in Southeast Asian Ride-Hailer Grab Holdings.

Central has been present in Europe since 2011 and bought the upscale Italian department store chain La Rinascente SpA for 205 million euros. In 2013 it also acquired Illum, Denmark’s oldest department store.

In 2015, Central bought the majority of three luxury department stores in Germany from Signa. Central and Signa jointly bought the Swiss luxury store Globus and other assets for more than 1 billion Swiss francs ($ 1.1 billion) last year.

Central and Signa have also partnered with Japanese retail giant Aeon Co to develop an e-commerce platform for one of the fastest growing online sports retail markets in the world.

Benko has made a name for itself as a real estate investor. He bought the iconic Chrysler Building in New York City in collaboration with real estate firm RFR Holding LLC for around $ 150 million in 2019.

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