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Fund Backed By World’s Richest Man Nears £1.4B Deal For Bicester Owner Stake

LVMH founder Bernard Arnault

A private equity firm backed by the world’s richest man is in exclusive talks to buy a £1.4B stake in the company that owns the famous Bicester Village outlet scheme.

L Catterton has a four-week exclusivity period to buy a 25% stake in Value Retail from UK REIT Hammerson for about £1.4B, React News reported, with key parties in the process now aligned behind a deal. 

The deal would see an investor backed by one of the world’s biggest luxury retail owners take a stake in Value Retail, which has built its fortune on discounted high-end fashion sales, with a focus on tourist shoppers. L Catterton is backed by LVMH and is the family office of the luxury group’s founder, Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest man.

L Catterton would pay about £1.4B for the stake, a yield of about 4.6%, React reported. That is a discount of about 25% to the value at which the stake is held on Hammerson’s books. That discount is partly attributable to the illiquid nature of a nonmajority, noncontrolling stake in the the business.

The sale would free up about £610M of equity for Hammerson, which could be used to pay down debt, invest in its shopping centre portfolio and/or return capital to shareholders. Eastdil Secured is advising Hammerson on the sale. 

Hammerson’s stake covers nine of Value Retail’s outlet malls: Bicester Village, in which Hammerson owns a 50% stake, plus villages in Milan; Ingolstadt, Munich and Frankfurt in Germany; Kildare, Ireland; Barcelona and Madrid in Spain; Paris; and Brussels. 

Bicester Village in Oxfordshire is focused on upscale and luxury retail and is often cited as achieving the highest sales per SF of any retail scheme internationally. Retailers have tended not to open other designer outlet stores in the south of England. 

The 245K SF outlet centre 65 miles northwest of London is estimated to be visited by up to 80% of the roughly 350,000 Chinese visitors to the UK every year. The platform at Marylebone station, from which trains to the nearest town depart, has signs and announcements in Mandarin, and Bicester Village employs about 150 Mandarin speakers.

It receives 7 million visits annually, attracting shoppers from Middle Eastern royals to the average bargain hunter.

Value Retail’s other shareholders include founder Scott Malkin, who owns 35% of the business, and U.S. retail giant Simon Property Group and Dutch pension fund APG, which both own 20%.