H&T reveals interest in buying Albemarle assets

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Competition heats up after pawnbroker fails to find a buyer.

H&T has revealed its interest in buying assets from struggling rival Albemarle & Bond, according to a statement released this week.

The pawnbroker, led by chief executive John Nichols, has submitted a proposal to take on some of Albemarle & Bond’s assets, after the company announced that it had entered administration at the end of March 2014.

In a statement released yesterday, H&T said: "H&T Group plc has noted the recent press speculation relating to the sale out of administration of Albemarle & Bond Holdings plc and confirms that it has submitted a proposal to A&B’s administrators regarding a potential purchase of some of A&B’s assets".

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H&T and Albemarle & Bond have co-existed for many years in the UK, but over-expansion and a reliance on the boom in gold price negatively impacted Albemarle’s operations, and it has struggled against last year’s decline in gold price. It issued a number of profit warnings in 2013, resorting to melting down gold stocks in order to raise cash before putting the business up for sale

H&T was similarly impacted by the fall in gold price – its profit for the full-year 2013 fell 60.6% to £6.7 million – but it has weathered the storm somewhat better, driving forward its retail sales and focusing on net debt and cost reductions.

H&T face competition from a number of private equity buyers interested in Albemarle. Accodring to the Sunday Times, former Bank of Scotland boss Sir Peter Burt has put forward an offer through his firm Promethean Investments, backed with cash by Rockbridge Growth Equity.

It is also understood that Apollo Global Management, which acquired Goldsmiths and Watches of Switzerland owner Aurum Holdings in 2012, is trying to buy Albemarle’s loans.

According to the Sunday Times, Mike Jervis of PwC said: "There has been a lot of interest in the [Albemarle & Bond] and we are optimistic of concluding a sale in April. Customers can be assured that every pledged item will be protected during this time."

The administrators have said that it would endeavour to protect as many jobs as possible, as it seeks to sell all or part of the business.
 

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