In most circumstances, this turn of events should be deeply worrying for the owners of the company being targeted. What usually follows next is a tried and tested tactic where the hedge funds join forces and try to wrest control from the current owners. Some City sources believe House of Fraser will eventually be forced to merge with arch-rival Debenhams, which is arguably more troubled.
Hedge funds have seized control of a long list of UK companies in this way, including Fitness First, Travelodge, Biffa and Yell, while hire purchase giant Brighthouse is about to face a similar assault. However, on this occasion, I’m not convinced that is exactly what is going on here.
Firstly, I think the hedge funds in question are simply trying to make a quick buck from the trade, rather than prepare for any hostile move. One way of viewing the move is that they believe House of Fraser will eventually be turned around, in which case its bonds should regain value, creating a quick profit for those holding them. If they do, then I doubt Yuan would roll over easily.
Buying a UK household name was a massive statement for the tycoon, even if House of Fraser is still struggling. There are doubts about how deep its owners pockets are, but faced with losing control, I suspect he could find the funds, pump in some extra equity and hold any predators at bay. For once, the department store chain looks like it may avoid changing hands.