Gifts Today magazine

Waterstones owner considers 2018 sale

£250m deal rumour as advisers explore cash-raising options for Russian tycoon

Waterstones may be sold by their Russian owner, who has drafted in advisers to explore strategic options for the deal rumoured to be worth £250 million.

Tycoon Alexander Mamut has called in NM Rothschild to look at ways of raising cash either by the outright sale of Waterstones or refinancing the business’ debt, The Sunday Times reported on 29 October. He acquired Waterstones from HMV for £53m in 2011 and installed Daunt Books owner James Daunt as MD, whose leadership has seen the booksellers performance significantly improve.

Having generated their first profit in five years in the year to April 2016, at £12.9m on improved sales of £394.7m against the previous year’s £0.9m loss on £378m sales, James (pictured) said in February the company were on track to deliver a second consecutive year of profitability. Waterstones have benefited from a lift in physical book sales, changes to their margin mix and increased sales of items such as stationery and greetings cards, bringing speculation that any deal could be worth around £250m.

The Sunday Times said it’s thought Alexander may be attempting to raise cash following difficulties at Russian bank Otkritie, in which he is an investor, after the country’s central bank took over following a run on deposits that began this summer. The new management team at Otkritie are reportedly demanding cash from investors, arguing that the bank’s financial difficulties have resulted from shareholders financing business deals.

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