Home Retail Group buys Habitat UK

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Britain's Home Retail Group on Friday said it had bought the Habitat UK brand and three of its London furniture stores for £24.5 million from US private equity firm Hilco.

HRG, which owns catalogue chain Argos and home improvements chain Homebase, agreed to pay the equivalent of $39 million or 27.5 million euros after the upmarket Habitat chain was placed in administration to save it from bankruptcy.

"Home Retail Group (HRG) today announces that it has agreed to acquire certain rights to the Habitat brand, one of the UK's leading contemporary home retailers," it said in a statement.

"The rights are for the exclusive use of the Habitat brand, its brand designs and intellectual property in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

"In addition, Home Retail Group is also acquiring the Habitat UK website, three of its London stores and certain brand support functions."

At the same time, Habitat UK has applied to go into administration -- the process whereby a troubled company calls upon independent financial help in a bid to restructure the business and remain operational.

The announcement threatens the chain's 30 other British stores and around 900 jobs.

Separately, Hilco said it was in "advanced" talks over the sale of the Habitat business outside of Britain.

The profitable European division includes 27 stores in France, five in Germany and six in Spain, with franchise arrangements in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Habitat, set up by designer Terence Conran in 1964, epitomised London's young and trendy image in the 1960s with a range of pastel colours and products based on his designs.

"The style led credentials of the Habitat brand, with its strong heritage, will be a significant addition to the group's portfolio of own brands," HRG chief executive Terry Duddy said on Friday.

"In addition to operating the three London stores and the UK website, we will introduce Habitat products across the group, including a number of concessions in Homebase stores."

© 2011 AFP

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