Mike Ashley withdraws his surprise bid for Patisserie Holdings (CAKE). Sports Direct International (SPD) pulls out of battle for beleaguered cake chain claiming to be at ‘disadvantage’. Sports Direct has pulled out of the bidding for Patisserie Valerie, just two days after emerging as a surprise suitor for the stricken cake chain. Mike Ashley’s sportswear group walked away from talks on Sunday, ending the prospect that Patisserie Valerie could join House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Sofa.com in the Sports Direct stable. The approach, made last Friday, was an unexpected twist in the battle to rescue Patisserie Valerie, which fell into administration in January after a £40m black hole was uncovered in its finances. It is understood that Ashley made a late bid reportedly worth more than £15m for Patisserie Valerie, but was told the offer was too low.
Ocado prays warehouse blaze won’t douse its hopes for a hi-tech future. Last Tuesday morning Tim Steiner, the boss of Ocado Group (OCDO), was brimming with his usual confidence as he told City investors how its robotic warehouses had the potential to revolutionise grocery shopping and transform the way baggage carousels, car parks and even ports operate. However, as Steiner was delivering his presentation in Goldman Sachs’s London office – where he worked as a bond trader in the 1990s – about 70 miles to the west a key element of the Ocado operation was literally about to go up in smoke. In the early hours of that day, a fire had broken out in his company’s flagship warehouse in Andover, Hampshire. The savage blaze burned for 48 hours, required 200 firefighters to bring it under control, and reduced the £45m building to a twisted, smouldering hulk. Ocado had to abandon the 4,000-plus deliveries that usually leave the Andover depot daily in its distinctive food-emblazoned vans; but the fire has done more than spoil the Sunday lunch plans of customers in nearby Winchester and Salisbury. Although Ocado’s share price had recovered by Friday, the middle of last week saw more than £1bn wiped off the stock market value of the retail-turned-tech firm. Investors worried that retailers, who have been queuing to buy its automated warehouse technology, would take fright at the vulnerability the fire had exposed.