INTERNATIONAL. A leading Kuwait-based Middle East retail group is poised to buy part of high street lingerie chain La Senza, its owner has said.
Alshaya, which owns stakes in a number of British retailers including Next, Debenhams and Mothercare, is in advanced talks to buy part of the business - understood to be 60 stores - as part of a pre-pack administration deal.
Around 80 shops remain under threat of closure after La Senza, which is owned by private equity firm Lion Capital, announced its intention before Christmas to appoint an administrator, which is now expected to be KPMG.
As well as tough trading conditions, the chain has been weighed down by leases agreed by sister lingerie chain Contessa with which it merged in 2007.
A spokeswoman for Lion Capital said: "We can confirm that Alshaya, a leading international retail franchise operator, is in advanced discussions with La Senza regarding a potential acquisition of part of the UK La Senza business."
Theo Paphitis, Dragons' Den star and former owner of La Senza, disclosed the pending deal on his Twitter feed over the weekend. He said: "Good news and bad news re @LaSenzaUK heard that Lion has done a deal to sell the business with about 60 shops to Alshaya group."
He added: "The bad news re @lasenza is that the other 80 shops will be closed down or put in the hands of Admin KPMG with resulting job losses. Sad!"
Last month La Senza, which has some 2,600 UK staff, blamed its decision to appoint administrators on trading conditions in its high street stores and the overall economic climate.
Lingerie rival Ann Summers was reportedly interested in picking up part of the La Senza estate, as was Triumph and Limited Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret, but it remains unclear whether they stand a chance of picking up any of La Senza's business.
Mr Paphitis bought the chain in 1998, revived its fortunes, and then sold his stake in the company to Lion Capital for £100 million.