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Sunday Round Up

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Apple’s struggle to defeat Amazon,TV Dragon Theo Paphitis offers to put fire back into La Senza, Desperate retailers set for 75pc discounting, Checking out chicken pays £45m dividend for Nando’s owner, Sports Direct may take the debt route to acquire Blacks, Royal wellies fall into American hands, HMV to post loss ahead of make-or-break Christmas, Harvey Nichols sees profits soar, Hilco considers Blacks Leisure move with Go Outdoors also poised.

Observer

Apple’s struggle to defeat Amazon set to be exposed by European ebook inquiry. The deal that the iPad maker struck with publishers could be threatened by an inquiry into the prices people in the EU pay for their digital reading. For book publishers, Christmas will come twice this year. After the festive trade in hardback tomes, the celebrations will begin again on Boxing Day, as the millions who got Kindles from Santa go online to stock them with reading material. Amazon already sells more ebooks than paperbacks. It claims sales of Kindle devices have reached 1m a week, while 13m iPads will find a home this quarter. 

Juniper Research forecasts 25m e-readers sales globally this year, and 55.2m tablet sales.

The Mail on Sunday

TV Dragon Theo Paphitis offers to put fire back into La Senza.Theo Paphitis has contacted his former firm, La Senza, to ‘offer assistance’ following the appointment of KPMG last  week to advise on a possible restructuring.Paphitis, who launched his own lingerie chain Boux Avenue earlier this year, refused to be drawn on what form the assistance might take or whether he might be interested in the whole business or  just parts of it. But he said: ‘This used to be my baby. We don’t know what the issues are yet, but it  was a very profitable chain at one time. If we can help, we  would love to.’

Desperate retailers set for 75pc discounting in a bid to pull in shoppers. The High Street is poised for some of the biggest sales for decades with prices slashed by up to 75 per cent as desperate retailers scramble to pull in shoppers.Rising unemployment, dearer fuel and utility bills and weeks of seismic economic news have left many consumers feeling financially fragile. Price cuts of 25 per cent are already commonplace in fashion stores and the levels of discounting have been described by retail experts as ‘unprecedented’.

Checking out chicken pays £45m dividend for Nando’s owner. It employs a team of mystery shoppers to make sure that its Portuguese peri-peri chicken lives up to the ‘legendary’ recipe claim. And Nando’s certainly seems to be reaping  the benefit. Now with more than 240 shops serving flame-grilled chicken, the fast food restaurant chain delivered a £45million dividend for its owner, Capricorn Ventures, in the year to February 27. Profits jumped 32 per cent to £31.5million on turnover of £317million, up from £278.8million.

The Times on Sunday

Sports Direct may take the debt route to acquire Blacks. Sports Direct remains interested in taking over Blacks Leisure, despite walking away from an offer for the struggling company’s shares. Sports Direct said yesterday that, “after careful consideration”, it would not bid for Blacks. However, Sports Direct, controlled by Mike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, is examining taking control via Blacks’ £36 million debt, according to a source close to the process. Blacks put itself up for sale ten days ago after issuing a profit warning and notifying shareholders that their holdings might be wiped out by any deal.

Royal wellies fall into American hands. The maker of the Queen’s wellington boots has been sold to an American private equity firm. The consortium behind Hunter Boot, which includes the former Tory party treasurer Lord Marland, has sold a majority stake in the business to Searchlight Capital Partners, which will help to fund its push into the lucrative Chinese market. Lord Marland teamed up with the Pentland sportswear group and Peter Mullens, the veteran Irish retailer behindThomas Pink shirts, to rescue Hunter from administration in 2006.

Independent 

HMV to post loss ahead of make-or-break Christmas. HMV is expected to post another big loss in its interim results tomorrow, as analysts predict a “make or break Christmas” for the beleaguered music retailer.Numis Securities has forecast a pre-tax loss of £34.5m, though this would at least be down on last year’s £41.3m hit. The main problem is like-for-like sales, which fell 15.1 per cent in the first 18 weeks of HMV’s financial year.

Harvey Nichols sees profits soar. In a sign that the megawealthy keep on spending, Knightsbridge landmark Harvey Nichols has seen pre-tax profit before charitable donations soar38 per cent to nearly £16m.Revenue rose by nearly £3.5m to £87.1m in the year to 2 April. Harvey Nichols has other stores across the country, but these are held in separate companies. The group is controlled by Asian tycoonDickson Poon, who is also chairman at Harvey Nichols. The charitable donation was a £5m payment to St Hugh’s college, Oxford University.

Telegraph

Hilco considers Blacks Leisure move with Go Outdoors also poised. Hilco, the retail restructuring specialist, is considering a move for Blacks Leisure in the event a buyer cannot be found for the company as a whole. The company, which in July sold the remnants ofHabitat to Home Retail Group, is understood to be interested in buying the trading business either as a pre-packaged administration or if the business falls into administration. But it is believed to have no interest in buying the quoted entity which owns Blacks. At this point, however, Hilco is not thought to have had access to any information from KPMG, the accountancy firm brought in by Blacks’ board to run the sale process.

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