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Why Iceland’s credit chill gives UK the shivers

Investment group Baugur has quashed speculation that its assets could be affected by the upheaval in the Icelandic banking market.

Fears have grown that the group, which has interests in House of Fraser, Karen Millen, Oasis, Moss Bros and French Connection, will feel the ripple effect from the nationalisation of Iceland bank Glitnir, and the collapse of Stodir, an investment vehicle controlled by Baugur chairman Jón sgeir Jóhannesson.

Baugur has insisted that its investments in these businesses are safe and there are no plans to sell off any of its interests. Baugur chief executive Gunnar Sigurdsson said that its assets are based in the UK, Scandinavia and the US and have no exposure to the Icelandic economy.

He said: “The funding for these businesses is secure and the majority of this funding is through international banks with whom Baugur has a long history. We are focusing on large retail projects and will continue to operate based on that strategy and remain committed to working on our portfolio to create value and growth. Our businesses continue to perform well in tough market conditions. For Baugur, it is business as usual.”

One industry insider said: “Baugur doesn’t have a controlling stake in these business, which are all run as separate companies. Baugur is one of several shareholders.
I doubt Jóhannesson would need to sell any of his investments but if he did he would just try and sell his holding like any other shareholder.”

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