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Habitat could axe over 900 jobs as HRG takeover rumours continue

Up to 900 jobs at homeware design store Habitat could be under threat, as takeover rumours continued over Argos ownerHome Retail Group's move to acquire the UK rights to the brand.

Talks are under way between current owner Hilco and Home Retail that could see the Homebase and Argos owner buy the UK rights to the Habitat brand and three stores in London for between £20m and £30m.

It is understood Hilco will retain the Habitat stores in Europe, but the remaining 30 UK stores may be put into administration in a move threatening the rest of the 900 staff Habitat employs in the UK.

The restructuring of Habitat completes a terrible week for UK retailers, as consumers cut back in the face of the squeeze on household incomes.

Homeform, the owner of Moben kitchens and bathroom chain Dolphin said on Thursday that it intended to appoint administrators, putting 1,300 jobs at risk, while on Wednesday Comet owner Kesa said it was considering a sale of the electricals retailer after it posted losses of £8.9m.

Set up by design legend Sir Terence Conran in 1964, Habitat came to epitomise London's young and trendy image during the Sixties with a range of pastel colours and products based on Conran designs.

Private equity group Hilco acquired the debt-laden Habitat in 2009 from the Ikano Group, the company founded by the Kamprad family that owns Ikea. It paid almost nothing for the chain, which was carrying heavy debts, while Ikano also agreed to inject £45 million into the business.

Discussions over a sale were said to be continuing last night and if successful Home Retail is expected to sell Habitat-branded products through its Homebase and Argos outlets.
Home Retail Group shares were flat on Friday morning.

Source : The Telegraph.co.uk
www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/8595976/Habitat-could-axe-up-to-900-jobs-as-Home-Retail-Group-takeover-rumours-continue.html

24 June 2011
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