Posted by Emily Hawkins and Mark Shapland on Sunday
Updated: 22:01 10 June 2023
Concerns are growing that Asos, at the center of a battle between rival billionaires, could be fast fashion’s latest victim.
Once a locker room winner and stock market darling, the retailer’s shares have tumbled since the pandemic as young women turned their backs on ordering cheap clothes online.
Heavy trading and mounting debt forced the retailer to raise £75m of new capital in May.
The business posted a £291m loss in the six months to March.
Last week, credit insurers lifted cover amid fears it could struggle to meet promises to suppliers.
After soaring to £77.30 five years ago after the market and hovering around £60 during the outbreak, shares are hovering around £3.33 – making the business a ‘sitting duck’ as rumors fly of a potential takeover.
Its fate rests in the hands of its three largest shareholders, Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen, American hedge fund baron William Barker and retail titan Mike Ashley.
Povelson has the largest share at 22 percent. Barker, who models himself on the legendary Warren Buffett, owns 13 percent of his Camelot Capital fund.
Ashley raised its stake in the company through Frasers Group to 9.9% last week.
Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital, said: ‘It’s a real character, they’re all vying and vying for position on the future of Asos. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when all three are in the room.’
Povelson, 50, is the wealthiest of the three with a fortune of £8.5 billion.
He’s Scotland’s biggest landowner and real-life King of the Glen, who drives around his estates in a beat-up VW Golf.
He and his wife Ann own 221,000 acres of land in 13 Highlands states. Denmark owes its fortune to Bestseller, founded in 1975 by his father Trolls.
Starting with one store in the Danish town of Brande, the company employs 18,000 people and owns brands such as Jack & Jones and Vero Moda.
Povelson endured tragedy in 2019 when three of his children were killed in a terrorist attack in Sri Lanka.
According to sources close to him, he believes that he can still change the fortunes of Asos while it is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
However, the matter may get out of hand in the coming months.
Last week it was reported that Alibaba-backed Turkish e-commerce fashion company Trendyol had made a £1 billion offer earlier this year.
It turned out to be worthless, but since then the company’s value has fallen to around £400 million, making it more attractive to a private equity raider or retail rival.
Povlsen’s closest rival comes not from Turkey, but closer to home in the form of Ashley.
The two men ‘have history’ at the iconic Jenners department store building in Edinburgh.
Povelson owns the building and Ashley owns the brand.
They were marked with a sign on the historic department store building.
Ashley increased its stake in Asos to nearly 10 percent last week.
The effect is to ‘put his tanks on Powelson’s turf’ if the control freaks out. Black Barker said he would play kingmaker in any takeover bid.
“Outsourcing requires 50 percent of the shareholders to take control. That means getting two of the three largest shareholders on board. It puts Barker in the driver’s seat.’
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