Tesco eyes sale of Giraffe

 

Sky News has reported that Tesco is looking at a sale of Giraffe, the restaurant chain bought from Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners during the reign of its former chief executive, as it seeks to improve performance in its core UK supermarkets business. Private equity firms and other potential bidders are being quietly sounded out about their interest in buying Giraffe, which trades from about 60 sites across the UK, Sky reported.

 

The business was acquired by Tesco during Philip Clarke’s period as chief executive in 2013 as he sought to diversify the retailer’s appeal and find ways of utilising excess space in some of its redundant stores. Tesco paid £50m for Giraffe. New chief executive Dave Lewis, who replaced Clarke, wanted to continue to dispose of businesses and brands which either dilute Tesco’s margins or act as a distraction from its principal revival mission. One insider added that a sale of Giraffe was not yet a certainty and would depend upon the terms of a deal. Along with Harris + Hoole, the chain of coffee shops, and Blinkbox, a digital content business which was subsequently sold and shut, the purchase of Giraffe formed part of Clarke’s efforts to make Tesco stores a more exciting, family-friendly destination. Shortly after Lewis arrived, Tesco was forced to restate its profits, sending its shares tumbling and sparking a criminal probe by the Serious Fraud Office that has yet to conclude. Lewis has sanctioned the sale of Tesco’s business in South Korea for £4bn, but called off an auction of Dunnhumby, its data analytics business, after it failed to attract sufficiently attractive offers.

 

Giraffe has lost money in recent years, partly as a result of the cost of opening new sites. Giraffe reported turnover rose to £55,021,630 in the year to 1 March 2015, up from £44,486,245 the year before. However, losses for the period were £3,943,363, compared with a loss of £398,827 the year before. The number of employees rose to 1,317 compared with1,140 in the year before. The company stated: “The results are mainly influenced by site assets impairment – the impairment for the period is £2.3m (2014: £1.7m).” The impairment charge was reduced from £3,089,825 after trading improved at three sites allowing the release of a previous year impairment of £796,000.

 

Although Tesco recently took full ownership of Harris + Hoole, insiders told Sky that represented a “tidying-up exercise” ahead of a likely attempt to offload it. A Tesco spokesman told Sky it didn’t comment on “rumour and speculation”.