Provocateur sold to 3i for £60m

LINGERIE brand Agent Provocateur has been bought by private equity firm 3i in a £60m deal, it announced yesterday.

LINGERIE brand Agent Provocateur has been bought by private equity firm 3i in a £60m deal, it announced yesterday.

The firm’s co-founder Joseph Corre, son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, will stay on as creative director. His wife and Agent Provocateur co-founder Serena Rees is leaving the business.

The couple are retaining a minority stake in the firm which they launched together in 1994.

Agent Provocateur lingerie, perfumes and shoes are now sold in 14 countries.

Hamleys Group chairman and former Body Shop deputy chairman Stuart Rose has been appointed chairman of the firm following the buyout.

Fresh sign of sales squeeze

THERE were fresh signs of the squeeze on high street spending yesterday after retail sales fell in October for the first time in nine months.

The 0.1% decline in sales volumes came despite a fourth successive month of discounting from retailers, and confounded expectations of a modest rise in October.

The downbeat Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures add further weight to predictions that the Bank of England will move to cut interest rates by next February, as shoppers coping with high mortgages ease spending.

Lower sales from food and clothing stores led the first decline since January, the ONS said.

The figures follow soaring food prices and recent warnings of disappointing trading in October from high street retailers such as Next and French Connection.

Experian shares plummet 12%

CREDT checking group Experian suffered heavy share losses yesterday after warning of a further slowdown in revenue growth as embattled banks and credit card firms clamp down on lending.

The credit information giant said it was facing “exceptionally difficult” trading conditions in the US and UK, where lenders have been hit by the credit squeeze and soaring default rates on American sub-prime mortgages.

The firm saw shares plummet more than 16% at one stage, later recovering to settle 12% lower.

Experian reported interim benchmark earnings of £218.8m, in line with analyst expectations, and stressed full year figures were still set to match its forecasts.

But investors focused on the group’s outlook for second half sales amid heightened nervousness over the fall-out of the credit crisis.

Experian said: “Organic sales growth slowed in the second quarter and we expect further slowdown in the second half due to the market environment.”

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