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UK's French Connection to sell Toast stake; may restart dividend

[LONDON] French Connection Group Plc said on Monday it would sell its 75 per cent stake in women's clothing brand Toast to Dutch firm Bestseller United A/S for 23.3 million pounds (S$43.22 million) and also consider restarting dividend payments.

Shares of the British fashion chain surged 19.8 per cent to their highest since Aug. 31, 2016 and were among the top percentage gainers on the London Stock Exchange.

French Connection said it would look to restart paying dividends if the disposal went through and the company returned to profitability.

The sale of Toast, known for its Venetian palazzo and pyjamas for women, was in agreement with founders Jamie and Jessica Seaton, who also agreed to sell their 25 per cent stake, the company said.

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The disposal, subject to shareholder approval, will help French Connection focus on its core business and return to profitability, it said.

French Connection has been struggling to fend off competition from fast-fashion rivals such as ASOS, Forever 21 and Inditex's Zara. The company has closed stores and hired new management and design teams as it tries to turn the corner.

In March, French Connection said it was close to returning to profit.

Founded in 1997 by the Seatons, French Connection acquired the stake in Toast in 2000. Toast made an operating profit of 1.1 million pounds in the year ended Jan. 31.