However, the bidders are said to have been outnumbered by the private equity groups which had held talks with Shop Direct but decided against making offers. Advent International, Carlyle, Cinven, CVC Capital Partners and Permira are all understood to have decided not to bid. Shop Direct has seen its profits soar in recent years, but suitors have in recent weeks developed concerns about the company's reliance on revenues from its vast consumer credit arm. Sources cautioned that the buyout firms which decided not to bid for Shop Direct could return to the fray if the Barclay brothers lower their target price from the roughly £3bn they are said to be seeking. Shop Direct is comprised of the Littlewoods business that the Barclays acquired 15 years ago, and the Very brand, which has demonstrated rapid growth as consumers switch to purchasing many items on digital channels. Some analysts believe that increasingly onerous regulation of consumer finance activities will deter private equity firms from paying a premium price for Shop Direct, which is among the biggest retail providers of credit in the UK to its customer base. Bankers say that uncertainty about consumer confidence during and after the Brexit negotiation process has also dampened enthusiasm to buy the company. They say the owners may ultimately restructure the sale process and seek to offload a minority stake in the business rather than full control. Shop Direct was one of the big winners in the retail sector during the crucial Christmas trading period, posting a 9% rise in sales during the seven weeks to 23 December.
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