Carpetright's top shareholder to take firm private in rescue bid

(Reuters) - Carpetright CPRC.L said it has agreed to be taken private by its largest shareholder, Meditor, in a deal to rescue Britain's biggest floor coverings retailer and pay down debt.

FILE PHOTO: A branch of Carpetright is seen in south west London, Britain January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The deal values Carpetright at 15.2 million pounds or 5 pence a share, it said on Friday, and comes a year after the retailer fought off a collapse and went for a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) restructuring that shut shops and cut rents.

The company has faced intensifying competition from online retailers, rising rent costs and uncertain consumer confidence due to Brexit - pressures that have toppled other well-known brands, such as Debenhams and Mothercare’s UK business.

The offer was a premium of 18% to Carpetright’s closing price of 4.245 pence on Thursday, but a discount of 44% to the closing price the day before Meditor made the same offer on Oct. 31.

“The board believes that the offer (from Meditor) is the only viable route to deliver its requirements for a deliverable, controllable solution to the long-term funding required to make Carpetright a sustainable business,” the company said.

Meditor, which owns just under 30% of Carpetright, intends to provide about 80 million pounds of long-term capital to the company to repay debt and meet ongoing working capital requirements.

“Despite the sector having faced a number of challenges ... MHL believes that Carpetright’s business is fundamentally strong and that current adverse trading conditions will not persist indefinitely,” the statement said.

MHL is the vehicle through which Bermuda-based Meditor will be acquiring Carpetright.

Before Friday’s announcement, Carpetright’s combined credit score - which measures how likely a company is to default in the next year on a scale of 100 (very unlikely) to 1 (highly likely) - was “1”, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

Carpetright, which also sells mattresses, headboards, engineered wood flooring and vinyl tiles through 449 stores, has debt more than double its market cap of 12.9 million pounds.

“The board’s move to unanimously recommend the offer suggests they see little future for the company as a public entity and you would expect shareholders to take the hint,” AJ Bell Investment director Russ Mould said.

The cash offer sent the retailer’s shares nearly 14% higher, an indication of shareholders’ approval.

Carpetright said the acquisition is not expected to lead to major job losses, but some redundancies are expected as it realigns its stores.

Panmure Gordon served as financial adviser to Meditor, while Carpetright was advised by Peel Hunt.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V, Bernard Orr and Louise Heavens