(Alliance News) - Cape Town-based clothing retailer Foschini Group Ltd has written to the newly-appointed administrators of British country lifestyle retailer Joules, in protest of the decision to sell the business to UK's Next PLC, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

In mid-November, Sky News reported Foschini had been considering an offer for Joules, and had been in talks with the retailer for several weeks before it appointed administrators.

On December 1, Next announced it would buy up a 74% majority stake in Joules in a GBP34 million deal, as well as buying the head office of Joules for GBP7 million.

Foschini has written to Interpath Advisors, which have served as Joules' administrators since last month, objecting to the decision to sell the business to Next, Sky reported on Friday.

Citing "City sources", Sky said Foschini could lodge a formal complaint with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales over how the deal was handled by Interpath.

Foschini, which owns brands such as Phase Eight and Hobbs, is said to have been confident of closing a deal for Joules in late November, before Next made its announcement less than a day later.

"One insider", cited by Sky, also said Foschini has written to lawyers overseeing the sale claiming they may have breached rules laid out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Foschini is aiming to recuperate costs it has incurred from the failed bid for Joules, Sky reported.

A spokesperson for the joint administrators rejected "any notion of unfairness" in how the deal was handled, in comments reported by Sky. Foschini had been unable to close the deal within the agreed timeframe, despite being granted a period of exclusivity, the spokesperson contended.

"Thereafter, a materially better offer for the business was received, which the joint administrators concluded represented the best outcome for the company's creditors," the spokesperson said.


Foschini shares were down 2.1% to ZAR98.38 in Johannesburg on Thursday, while Next was 1.7% lower at 5,824.00 pence in London.

By Elizabeth Winter, Alliance News senior markets reporter

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