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Hopes of a buyer for troubled chain.

Byline: ANDREW HIRST

A PAKISTANI billionaire is reported to be working on a surprise bid to rescue fashion chain Peacocks from administration.

Peacocks, which has 563 stores and 48 concessions, and parent company the Peacock Group, collapsed under its debt mountain last month in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths, placing 7,500 jobs in jeopardy.

Alshair Fiyaz, who made his fortune in the textile industry and whose family wealth is estimated at pounds 3 billion, is working with Danish investment fund Solstra Capital, which is expected to submit a second-round bid for Peacocks today.

Peacocks has stores on the Piazza in Huddersfield town centre and at Brighouse.

Administrator KPMG recently said it had more than 100 conversations with potential buyers, but it is understood that earlier private equity interest had begun to wane, fuelling fears that the company will be liquidated.

Mr Fayaz has dabbled in retail property investment in Denmark but his main interests are in shipping and financial services.

He is understood to be working with Peacocks' managing director Tim Bettley and other members of its senior management team.

Peacocks can trace its history back to Warrington, in Cheshire, in 1884 when Albert Frank Peacock founded Peacock's Penny Bazaar. In 1940, his son Harold moved the business to its current base in Cardiff.

The business developed and expanded in the 1990s, floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. The Peacock Group acquired low-cost retailer Bon March in 2002.

The Grange Moor-based fashion chain was sold last month in a deal that will lead to 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores and will continue to employ 2,400 staff.

The Peacock Group delisted from the Stock Exchange to become a privately-owned business once again in 2006 and broke the 500 stores mark in 2008.

But despite strong trading, the company, owned by hedge funds Och-Ziff and Perry Capital, has suffered as its profit margins came under pressure from the frenzy of discounts on the high street being offered by retailers desperate to drum up trade. The retailer also racked up pounds 750m of borrowings.

KPMG has already announced 249 redundancies from Peacocks head office in Cardiff.

Bon March, founded in 1982, has a store at New Street in Huddersfield and others at Brighouse, Dewsbury, Halifax, Bradford, Wakefield and Barnsley.

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* HOPES: The Peacocks store on Huddersfield's Piazza
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Feb 6, 2012
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