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GUS moves to split operations; Argos retail business to be run separately from credit wing, chairman reveals.

Byline: BY GRAEME EVANS Daily Post Correspondent

ARGOS owner GUS fired the starting gun yesterday on a long-awaited move for the separation of its retail business from credit-checking arm Experian.

GUS said the split would be through a demerger with both Argos Retail Group (ARG) and Experian independently listed on the London Stock Exchange.

It said the switch would take place in the next six to 12 months and would enable all existing shareholders to benefit from an investment in both businesses. Some new shares in Experian are also likely to be sold.

GUS demerged luxury goods brand Burberry last year and signalled plans at the time to split its retail operation, which also includes DIY chain Homebase.

Chairman Sir Victor Blank said GUS planned to keep the same management teams at both chains.

He added: "The separation of ARG and Experian is the final step in focusing GUS on fewer activities, a strategy that has delivered substantial value for shareholders. Both ARG and Experian are now well-positioned in their chosen markets and both have proven management teams and clear strategies for growth."

Richard Ratner, of Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, forecast a value of pounds 7.4bn for Experian, with Argos set to be worth around pounds 3.5bn.

He said the plans were "much as expected", other than the debt of GUS being placed in Experian and the offer of new shares to raise additional funds.

GUS was originally a mail order business known as Universal Stores - it was founded in Manchester by Abraham and George Rose in 1900.

In 1930, the company became known as The Great Universal Stores Limited. GUS will also make a further special contribution of pounds 100m to its pension schemes.

Final step focusing GUS on fewer activities
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 29, 2006
Words:293
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