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WH Smith to acquire US travel retailer in £312m deal

WH Smith has agreed a deal to acquire US-based travel retailer Marshall Retail Group (MRG) in a £312m deal.

WH Smith said that the acquisition of MRG represents a “rare and compelling opportunity to accelerate its expansion in the large and fast growing US travel retail market”.

The transaction is designed to increase WH Smith’s scale in the US and the breadth of its offering to landlords, and will broadly double the size of WH Smith’s International Travel business.

It added that the deal will in part be funded through a share placing to institutional investors that aims to raise around £155m in funds.

The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2020.

Carl Cowling, WH Smith Group chief executive said: “This acquisition will accelerate the growth of our International Travel business and combined with InMotion, the market leading digital accessories airport retailer that we acquired last year, will significantly enhance our scale and growth opportunities in the US, a large and fast growing travel retail market.”

“This is an exciting value creating opportunity, entirely in line with our strategy. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Michael Wilkins, CEO, and the entire team across the Marshall Retail Group to the WH Smith Group and we look forward to working together to further develop our business across North America.”

Michael C. Wilkins, Marshall Retail Group CEO, said: “I feel very proud to announce that we have reached an agreement with UK based retailer, WH Smith, to acquire Marshall Retail Group. WH Smith is one of the world’s oldest retailers with close to 1,600 stores across the world.

“This is an incredible milestone for our business and is testament to the outstanding team at MRG. We are proud of our success, particularly our recent growth in airports, and I’m especially excited about the potential this unlocks for MRG in the years to come.”

He added: “We very much look forward to working with such an established and successful global business, with strong heritage, as we continue on our journey together to drive both businesses forward.”

The news comes as WH Smith revealed its preliminary results for the year ending 31 August 2019, in which it saw group revenue increase by 11% and by 1% on a like-for-like basis. It also reported pre-tax profits of £135m, up from £134m the previous year.

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