WH Smith denies exclusive talks

The group says it is still negotiating with a number of players to sell its distribution division.

According to today’s Financial Times, JP Morgan Partners, the private equity division of JP Morgan Chase had “emerged as the frontrunner” to buy WH Smith’s distribution division, valued at up to £220m. The report went on to say that the firm was believed to have outbid several private equity firms, including Electra, 3i and a joint bid from ABN Amro Capital and CVC Partners Europe.

However, WH Smith firmly today denied exclusive talks with any one party. A spokesperson for the company said: “We are not negotiating on an exclusive basis with any one party at this stage.” She added that the company is currently in talks with a number of parties. It has created a shortlist and will make an announcement once a sale has been agreed.

WHSmith News is the UK’s largest wholesaler of newspapers and magazines with 33 per cent and 36 per cent market share respectively. In April the company formally announced its intention to sell the division as part of its strategy to focus on its retailing and publishing businesses.

Richard Handover, chief executive of WH Smith, said the decision to sell the division was consistent with its strategy of realising the potential of the WH Smith brand through its retail and publishing businesses. He explained: “Whilst WHSmith News continues to create value for the group and is highly cash generative, over the longer term it is not central to achieving these objectives.”