But who is this dark horse in the running? Rumoured to be worth around £3bn, Pakistani textile magnate Fiyaz has business interests spanning shipping, retail (he owns a few department stores in Scandinavia and has strong ties to Debenhams, which runs them on a 25-year lease), financial services (he owns a substantial stake in UK-based stockbrokers Novum Securities) and commodities. Oh, and polo. Shame he’s not more of a cricket man; else he’d be one British retailer and a test series up.
Fiyaz has taken on the services of Danish investment fund Solstra Capital to broker the deal. Talks opened last month as he, the current owners (Och-Ziff and Perry Capital) and Peacocks’ managing director Tim Bettley tried to work through a viable strategy for the firm.
It’s an interesting challenge: despite strong trading over Christmas, profit margins have tanked. The whole high street has been in a discounting frenzy to try and tempt the pennies out of consumers’ pockets, creating impossible price wars. There’s also the small matter of how much, if anything, Peacocks' long line of creditors will receive.
The Peacocks Group has already seen its little sister chain Bonmarche, flogged to Sun European Partners last month. Its rescue was bittersweet: 1,400 jobs have been lost and 160 stores closed. But its fate may be slightly better. Between Fiyaz and another silent bidder (an unidentified Indian clothing manufacturer), a last-minute deal could bring an end to the fashion retailer’s bleak winter.