(Alliance News) - Next PLC on Thursday said it is buying a majority stake in fellow retailer Joules Group PLC, which last week Friday said it was preparing to be wound up.

The move comes weeks after Next snapped up assets of furniture seller Made.com after it had collapsed, buying the brand name, domain names and intellectual property of Made.com for GBP3.4 million.

It also follows earlier talks that had failed to invest in Joules, which is a Leicestershire-based British country lifestyle retailer.

Clothing and homewares retailer Next agreed with Joules founder Tom Joule that it will own 74% of the equity, with Joule owning the remaining 26% under a GBP34 million deal. Further, Next bought the current head office of Joules for GBP7 million.

"Joules will retain its management autonomy and creative independence. The company will have its own board of directors and continue to be based in Market Harborough. Most Joules staff will remain with the business and Joules will migrate onto the Next Total Platform over time," Next said, adding that it anticipates Joules's product, marketing and brand building skills to start contributing to the Next platform in early 2024.

Jonathon Brown, who became Joules chief executive officer in September, keeps his position, Next said.

Tom Joule said: "I'm so pleased that we have been able to strike a deal that protects the future of the company for all its loyal customers, its employees and also for the town of Market Harborough, which have been so central to Joules' success."

Two weeks ago, Joules said that Peel Hunt LLP had resigned as its nominated adviser and broker with immediate effect. It noted that, should a replacement adviser fail to be appointed within a month, the admission of its share to trading on AIM would be cancelled.

At the point of the announcement, the company's shares had already been suspended from trading.

On November 16, it said it expected its shares to be delisted in due course, with the company to be wound up.

Next and fellow FTSE 100-listed retailer Frasers Group PLC were tipped last month by Shore Capital analysts as possible companies to snap up Joules assets, with Frasers in particular having a reputation for seizing troubled brands.

Joules had warned that trading underperformance had left its finances in a precarious state. Joules shares have lost practically all their value over the past 12 months, amid a series of profit warnings and failed talks for an investment by Next.

Next shares were down 0.2% at 5,828.00 pence each on Thursday afternoon in London.

By Tom Budszus; tombudszus@alliancenews.com

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