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Woolworths Boss Flies In For David Jones Sale Talks

Woolworths Holdings CEO Roy Bagattini flew to Sydney last month to hold discussions with banks about offloading the beleaguered David Jones department store chain.

Goldman Sachs is believed to be the frontrunner in handling the sale process.

As we reported yesterday, the sale would be a huge relief for the South African holding company, who paid A$2.1 billion for the chain in 2014, and have suffered ever since.

David Jones has had five CEOs in the last six years, and ended three years of straight losses in 2021, largely due to a 70.4 million JobKeeper handout and the sale of key assets, including the Elizabeth St Sydney CBD building for $510 million, and the Bourke St building in the Melbourne CBD for $121 million.

The company also pulled out of its failed dual-branding exercise with BP service stations, closed the majority of its loss-making food halls, and trimmed floor space by 7 per cent.

Despite Bagattini’s trip to Australia, Woolworths have downplayed talks of a sale.

“Woolworths Holdings does not comment on media or market speculation,” a spokeswoman said. “If there were any developments that warranted commu­nication to the market, it would be done as and when required.

“Woolworths Holdings remains focused on the operational turnaround of David Jones and ensuring that this iconic business is restored to its rightful market leadership position in Australia.”

“We are not considering an exit from Australia.”

Woolworths owns the successful Country Road Group, which operates Country Road, Trenery, Witchery, Mimco, and Politix.

Therefore, the company’s insistence it isn’t planning to exit Australia doesn’t mean they won’t remove David Jones from their books.

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