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Seven & I confirms discussions over the future of Sogo & Seibu

(Source: Reuters/Toru Hanai.)

After extensive pressure from institutional investors, Seven & I Holdings has confirmed it is mulling options for the future of its Sogo & Seibu department store business. 

Nikkei Asia on Monday reported that the Japanese multi-brand retailer, whose jewel in the crown is the 7-Eleven convenience store business, was already in negotiations with prospective buyers of the high-end department stores. 

Sogo & Seibu will relocate its headquarters back to its flagship store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district to reduce rent, a move initiated before the current sales talks, according to Nikkei.

In a brief statement referencing that report, Seven & I said it was examining “all possibilities” including the sale of shares, however “nothing has been decided” as yet. 

Last month, ValueAct, which has a 4.4 per cent stake in the parent company, made what is a rare public criticism of a company it holds an interest in, claiming the business was “vastly underperforming its potential” and should consider structural reforms and asset sales.

In recent years several analysts and investors have questioned the company’s strategy of involvement in so many retail categories when the main driver of the business was the 7-Eleven chain. Alongside Sogo & Seibu, Seven & I owns Loft, Tower Records, and Barneys Japan, along with other retail brands. 

VakueAct’s demands included the creation of “strategic review committee”, comprising outside directors, to consider whether the “sale or spin-off of divisions or a business combination with a third party would deliver superior value and strategic benefits to the company and its stakeholders”.

In a response yesterday, Seven & i said its management structure enables smooth decision making, and that shareholders have ample opportunity to communicate with outside directors, citing 10 dialogues between the company and ValueAct last year.

It also said the US-based fund had not presented any plans to enhance corporate value. It said it would consider increasing opportunities for direct dialogue between investors and outside directors, as well as management.

  • Additional reporting by Rocky Swift of Reuters. 

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