Mike Ashley makes £50m bid for Leeds shopping centre

Frasers Group owner Mike Ashley has reportedly offered nearly £50 million to purchase an outlet shopping centre near Castleford on the outskirts of Leeds.

According to The Times, Ashley has lodged a bid to acquire Junction 32, a shopping centre which spans 250,000 sq ft and currently contains outlet locations for over 90 brands ranging from Nike and Levi's to M&S and The Body Shop. Junction 32 also offers a variety of dining locations, a cinema and Xscape Yorkshire – a sports complex which, among other activities, houses an indoor ski slope.

The centre is currently owned by Land Securities (Landsec), the largest commercial property development and investment company in the United Kingdom. The firm purchased Junction 32 in 2017 as part of a £333 million acquisition of three outlet centres from Hermes Investment Management, however the value of retail property has significantly decreased in the past five years and Landsec is looking to reduce its retail property portfolio.

Frasers has invested heavily in well-known brands like Game, Missguided and Jack Wills, and has also been on a major property acquisition spree, having purchased The Mall shopping centre in Luton and Dundee's Overgate Centre for £58 million and £30 million respectively.

Ashley, who has stated his "confidence in the future of the UK high street", reportedly sees the potential in buying up shopping centres and filling them with Frasers; 40-plus retail brands.

In comments to The Times, a spokesperson for Landsec said that it was “considering various acquisition and disposal opportunities that make financial and strategic sense to the business,” but did not confirm a bid for Junction 32 from Frasers.

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