Baugur, the Icelandic group which already owns Hamleys, Oasis, Jane Norman, the Karen Millen fashion chain and jeweller Goldsmiths is now moving in on the tea and coffee market.

It’s buying up 121 year old Whittard of Chelsea, which has 120 outlets across the UK.

Actually, it’s the dried fruit and nut business, Julian Graves, which has 260 shops across the UK, which is doing the deal, but then Baugur has a majority stake in the company.

Whittard may have a history going back to the time of Queen Victoria, but it has not been immune from the High street slump. It has suffered at the hands of cheaper less upmarket outlets, and so when the Baugur ship appeared on the horizon, instead of rushing for shelter, its board welcomed the company.

Richard Rose, chairman of Whittard, said, “This is an opportunity for shareholders to realise their investment in cash at a time when market sentiment towards smaller retail companies is increasingly negative and when the current retail trading environment shows no indication of a short-term recovery.”

Baugur boss Jon Asgeir Johannesson had a run in with Icelandic authorities earlier this year, when charges of fraud were made. But once Mr Johannesson was able to show that he had refunded the company the cost of the hot dog and burger he had bought with a corporate credit card, the charges were dropped. But in the intervening time, Baugur lost out on being a part of the consortium which eventually snapped up Somerfield. See Investment and Business News 12 September.

© Investment & Business News 2013