Could Mike Ashley merge Debenhams and House of Fraser?

Debenhams is set to close up to 50 of its high street shops after posting losses of nearly £500million.

Mike Ashley owns  30% share of Debenhams
Mike Ashley owns 30% share of Debenhams

The shop is just the latest casualty of the High Street and similar national department store chain House of Fraser was rescued from administration by Sports Direct earlier this year.

And now all eyes are on Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley again with speculation building that he is considering merging the two High Street brands.

Ashley owns a just under 30% of Debenhams, close to the threshold at which he must launch an official takeover bid, Press Association reports.

House of Fraser was saved from administration by Sports Direct

Debenhams has announced a shop closure plan, which will put 4,000 jobs at risk.

The group said the closures will take place over a three- to five-year period and the announcement comes alongside a dire set of financial figures.

Debenhams swung to a £491.5 million loss in the year to September 1, the biggest in its history.

Woes at Debenhams comes as a raft of retailers including New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare also embark on store closures programmes.

The high street has also been hit with the collapse of House of Fraser, Maplin, ToysRUs and Coast.

Robert Hayton, head of business rates at real estate advisor Altus Group, said: "Department stores are beginning to look like the dinosaurs of the high street.

"Big rents, high rate liabilities, large staffing needs, and leases that are difficult to give up all conspire to create a beast unable to adapt to a rapidly changing retail climate."

Debenhams boss Sergio Bucher said the company was making tough decisions to try and strengthen the store.

He said: "It has been a tough year for retail in 2018 and our performance reflects that. We are taking decisive steps to strengthen Debenhams in a market that remains volatile and challenging.

"We are taking tough decisions on stores where financial performance is likely to deteriorate over time."

The store closures will reduce the Debenhams estate to about 100 and come on top of 10 earmarked earlier this year.

Sales for the year also slipped 1.8% to £2.9 billion while like-for-like revenue fell 2.3%.

Mr Bucher insisted: "Debenhams remains a strong and trusted brand with 19 million customers shopping with us over the past year.

"With a strengthened balance sheet, we will focus investment behind our strategic priorities and ensure that Debenhams has a sustainable and profitable future.

"I can promise my 26,000 staff across the UK that we will work very hard to protect as many stores and as many jobs as we can."