‘India’s Sapat eyes Britain’s troubled Whittard’

December 23rd, 2008 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

ChelseaLondon, Dec 23 (IANS) Sapat, an Indian tea company, is eyeing Whittard of Chelsea, an upmarket British tea and coffee retailer that is reported to be on the brink of entering administration, a newspaper reported Tuesday.Sapat owner Nikhil Joshi told the Times newspaper Tuesday that he was following the situation at Whittard closely.

“We’re waiting for some clarity to assess our next move. We are in a position to make an acquisition. We have looked at this brand in the past. For us, an entry into the UK would make sense,” he added.

Rumours about Whittard swelled Tuesday amid unconfirmed reports that the company, backed by failed Icelandic bank Landsbanki, had called in Ernst & Young as standby administrator.

“It is thought that Sapat, which is expected to make a turnover of more than 100 million pounds this year, has at least 20 million pounds in cash on its books to spend on acquisitions,” the Times said.

Founded 110 years ago, Sapat, one of India’s largest growers and blenders of tea, made an unsuccessful bid to buy Clipper, a British organic tea company, for 24 million pounds.

Joshi told the paper that Whittard had been neglected for decades.

“The company has been plagued with problems. The core problem: it’s a place you might go to buy your mum a present, but don’t want to visit for yourself.

“Our business is not in a downturn. We’re very much in a position to make acquisitions,” he told the Times.

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