Woollen Mill one of favourites for Blacks

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The Scottish clothing group Edinburgh Woollen Mill emerged yesterday as a frontrunner to acquire parts of ailing retailer Blacks Leisure.

Potential bidders had until yesterday to register interest with the sale adviser, KPMG, and reports suggest a flurry of bids have been tabled from companies including Mountain Warehouse and Go Outdoors.

There have been concerns over the future of the stricken firm, which owns 98 Blacks outlets and 208 Millets stores, after its biggest shareholder Sports Direct walked away from buyout talks, sparking fears of a lack of interest.

But sources familiar with the process confirmed a number of bidders had come forward, including Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which recently snapped up 58 Jane Norman stores after the retailer fell into administration.

Blacks Leisure declined to comment.

Shares in Blacks Leisure surged 22 per cent as speculation over potential bidders escalated but the price is still down 96 per cent since the start of the year, giving the company a market value of £1.4m.

KPMG is expected to sell the company under a pre-pack administration so the winning bidder can pick it up free of liabilities.

Blacks, which also owns brands Peter Storm and Eurohike and is in £36m of debt, put itself up for sale after failing to secure extra funding to turn around the business, which would have included a revamp of its stores.

The retailer made a £16m loss in the first half of the year and recently warned its full-year performance would be worse than expected.