Majestic Wine to sell retail & commercial units to Softbank's Fortress

FILE PHOTO: A general view of a Majestic Wine Warehouse in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, north-west England on June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Yates

(Reuters) - Majestic Wine Plc WINEW.L said on Friday it had agreed to sell its retail and commercial business to a vehicle controlled by funds managed by Softbank's 9984.T Fortress Investment Group, as it looks to rebrand itself into a purely online retailer.

The British wine retailer will sell the businesses for about 100 million pounds to CF Bacchus Holdings Ltd. It also said it is exploring the sale of its Lay and Wheeler business, a specialist fine wine merchant.

Majestic has been struggling with competition from discounters and online rivals and focusing on its booming Naked Wines business. It will now continue as an online subscription business.

The company, which has over a million customers in Britain, the United States and Australia, plans to rename itself Naked Wines Plc. It bought the online retail business in 2015 and has since more than doubled its size.

Majestic Wines’ sixth-largest shareholder Gatemore Capital Management welcomed the sale and said it was “excited for the company’s prospects going forward as a standalone, high-growth and profitable business”. The firm holds a 3.77% stake in the company, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

The retail portfolio has around 200 shops while the commercial unit supplies wine to businesses.

Majestic said it will use the net proceeds from the sale to cut debt, invest in its Naked Wines business and return 3.8 million pounds to shareholders through a special dividend.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva