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LONDON-British Land Land is poised to sign a deal to buy Debenhams’ freehold property for £450 million ($775 million) in what is set to be biggest retail property deal of the year.

A deal with Baroness Retail, the new owner of department store operator Debenhams, is understood to be close to completion. But it is unlikely to be signed before shares in the retailer are delisted.

British Land has been in talks with Baroness Retail for weeks over a sale-and-leaseback of up to 26 stores. This followed the successful £1.7 billion ($2.9 billion) takeover of Debenhams. The new owner, Baroness, is a consortium comprising venture capitalists CVC Capital Partners, Texas Pacific Group, and investment house, Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity.

A subsequent deal with British Land is likely to include the 350,000 sf Oxford Street flagship store, where there is a lapsed planning consent to add more retail on an upper level, and the 475,000 sf Manchester store. There is also scope to add value there by increasing retail space.

Speculation about a sale and leaseback has been circulating ever since May when Permira, another venture capitalist, made an indicative offer for the company. But their offer was bettered by Baroness and this deal, unlike the Permira one, is not dependent on a property sale to fund the acquisition of the retailer.

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