Feb 19 (Reuters) - Currys shares soared on Monday after Chinese online retailer JD.com joined U.S. activist investor Elliott Advisors in a battle to buy the British home appliance and electronics retailer, which has already rebuffed Elliott's 700 million pound ($881.79 million) opening bid.

Below is a brief history and a snapshot of present operations of the 130 year-old business, which has gone from selling bikes and gramophones a century ago to drones and virtual reality headsets today.


In 1884, Henry Curry founded Curry Cycle Co, a bicycle-building business. It floated on the stock market in 1927 but was bought by Dixons Retail in 1984. Dixons listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1962.

A series of acquisitions later, Dixons Retail merged with Carphone Warehouse in 2014 to become Dixons Carphone - UK's No.1 tech retailer selling everything from mobile phones to smart TVs online and in-store.

However, the Carphone Warehouse business was hit hard by changes in the mobile networks market as consumers held onto handsets for longer and chose cheaper SIM-only contracts. It also lost partner deals with mobile networks such as O2 and EE. It closed all its standalone stores in 2020.

The company renamed itself to Currys in 2021, although its Nordic business continued to trade under the Elkjop banner.

Currys sold its Greek unit Kotsovolos last November to Greek power utility Public Power Corp for an enterprise value of 175 million pounds and the transaction is expected close in the first quarter of 2024.


The Currys UK brand operates 301 stores in the country, while Elkjop has 426 stores across Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, and franchise operations in Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Overall, the company employs about 28,000 people.

In the UK, Currys has a 24% market share, while in the Nordics it has a 27% share. Kotsovolos is the top tech retailer in Greece.


Shares of the FTSE 250 constituent now trade at around 63 pence, more than 87% below 2015 peaks of more than 500 pence, valuing the company at 734.5 million pounds.

In its last fiscal year ended April 29, 2023, Currys reported an adjusted pre-tax profit of 119 million pounds compared with 192 million pounds a year earlier and pre-pandemic figures of 166 million pounds.

The group, which sells everything from TVs to washing machines, air conditioners, laptops and game consoles, has struggled to grow over the last two years as sales retreated after spiking during the pandemic and high inflation hurt consumer spending along with stiff competition from e-commerce giants.


The news of a potential takeover of Currys boosted shares of competitors, such as British rival AO World, Germany's Ceconomy and France's Groupe Fnac Darty.


According to LSEG data, hedge fund Redwheel is Currys' largest shareholder with a 14.9% stake, followed by Spanish investment firm Cobas Asset Management, which has a 9.2% stake.

British retail industry veteran Mike Ashley's Frasers Group is the third largest shareholder in Currys, with a 6.6% stake.

David Ross, the co-founder of Carphone also owns a nearly 5% stake in the company. ($1 = 0.7938 pounds) (Reporting by Eva Mathews and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru Editing by Tomasz Janowski)