UPDATE 1-Retailer French Connection seeks buyout offers as suitor backs out

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March 2 (Reuters) – French Connection said on Tuesday it was mulling a sale and sought potential suitors as Spotlight Brands and Gordon Brothers backed out from making an offer to buy the struggling British fashion retailer after the investment firms approached it last month.

The retailer, in two separate statements, said it was beginning a formal sale process and had been approached by three other parties for preliminary talks in addition to a previously announced potential offer from Go Global Retail and HMJ International.

London-listed French Connection was a force in the British fashion market in the 1990s and was known for its provocative “FCUK” branding, but it has not been profitable in nearly a decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic had further dented its sales, joining other retail brands such as Laura Ashley, Oasis and Arcadia that were hit by the crisis.

French Connection in February said the talks with Spotlight-Gordan and Go Global-HMJ were at a very early stage – a message it reiterated on Tuesday saying none of its current talks are guaranteed to lead to an offer.

Under British takeover rules, Spotlight and Go Global have until March 5 to make a firm offer for the company.

WH Ireland is acting as the sole financial adviser and broker to French Connection for the formal sale process.

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