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LONDON-The takeover frenzy that has been gripping the UK department store sector since the beginning of the year reached new heights yesterday with news that Selfridges’ board had recommended a £600 million ($960 million) offer from Canadian-based Galen Weston, just as private equity group Permira Holdings made an indicative £1.54 billion ($2.5 billion) offer for Debenhams.

Canadian billionaire Galen Weston has seen off the challenge from Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital to buy the Selfridges department store chain. The knock-out blow came when Hunter declined to match Weston’s £600 million ($960 million) offer for the business, which has a flagship store on London’s Oxford Street and two branches in Manchester.

Weston’s vehicle, Wittington Capital, already owns the Fortnum & Mason store in London; Brown Thomas in Dublin and the 12-strong Holt Renfrew chain in Canada. Another branch of the Weston family controls the Primark value fashion chain in the UK through its holdings in ABF.

But the door seems to be open to a counterbid, and analysts believe property investor Robert Tchenquiz, with backing from Formula 1 owner Bernie Ecclestone, has not ruled out an attempt to trump Weston’s offer.

And barely had the dust settled at Selfridges headquarters than the m&a circus moved barely 100 yards east to the Debenhams HQ. Permira Partners–the venture capitalist that successfully transformed the Homebase store chain before selling it to GUS–made an indicative offer of £1.54 billion ($2.5 billion) for the 111-strong Debenhams chain of department stores.

Although the company stresses the offer is not an MBO, chief executive Belinda Earl is working with Permira on the offer. Due diligence will take six weeks, but given the feeding frenzy surrounding UK department stores, other bids cannot be ruled out.

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