State of M&A Deals: Boohoo Buys Debenhams, Asos Makes a Play for Topshop

Britain’s M&A market continues to heat up as online fashion retailers Boohoo and Asos make major plays for two of the country’s most recognized fashion chains.

Today, Boohoo announced that it acquired all of the intellectual property assets of Debenhams, including customer data and selected contracts, for 55 million pounds (or $75.4 million at current exchange). The 243-year-old department store, whose business struggles were compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, filed for administration for the second time in the calendar year back in April.

As part of the deal, Boohoo will not absorb Debenhams’ stores or its staff members. About 12,000 jobs are at risk as the chain liquidates all of its locations across the United Kingdom, where it operates 124 outposts.

Separately, Asos shared that it was in “exclusive” talks to snap up Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT — brands that belong to the recently collapsed Arcadia Group — after British retailer Next pulled out of the bidding process. Arcadia, which employs roughly 13,000 workers across its 450-or-so stores, began insolvency proceedings in late November. Over the weekend, Sky News reported that Asos could pay more than 250 million pounds (or $342.1 million) for the Topshop brand.

“The board believes this would represent a compelling opportunity to acquire strong brands that resonate well with its customer base,” Asos said in a statement, adding that there’s no certainty of a transaction. (An online-only business, Asos could also end up closing the brands’ locations.)

The news comes a month after retail powerhouse Authentic Brands Group emerged as a potential acquirer of both Debenhams and Arcadia. Last year, in partnership with SPARC Group , ABG snapped up fast-fashion giant Forever 21, denim purveyor Lucky Brand and storied menswear clothier Brooks Brothers.(SPARC is a venture created by ABG and mall behemoth Simon Property Group.)

In December, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group — parent of the Sports Direct, Flannels and Jack Wills labels — had expressed interest in both Debenhams and Arcadia. Others reportedly looking to bid for Topshop include billionaire tycoon brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa, who recently bought supermarket chain Asda, as well as Chinese fast-fashion behemoth Shein.

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