Entrepreneur Shaf Rasul invests in company that shifts unsold goods for struggling retailers

ONE of Scotland's richest entrepreneurs, Shaf Rasul, is investing in a new asset management vehicle to help distressed retailers offload stock they are struggling to sell.

Rasul, 37, is thought to be the country's wealthiest Asian businessmen with a personal fortune of around 80m. He has taken a 70% stake, worth between 2m and 3m, in CPM Asset Management. CPM was set up by Alfie Ariff, who has known Rasul for 15 years, after he gave up his role as purchasing director with a consumer electronics distribution company. Rasul's stake will decrease as the business grows.

One of the appeals of the tie-up is that CPM can take advantage of Rasul's logistics facility. CPM will buy unwanted stock from retailers facing financial difficulties and sell it on to consumers for a profit. The firm has recently bought 10m of stock from a retailer which did not want to be named.

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Rasul says: "A lot of the retailers we do deals with don't want to admit they have cash-flow problems. A high street retailer will have a slowdown in sales and realise they have too much stock. CPM will discreetly dispose of the stock making sure it is not sold to a competitor of the retailer." Rasul expects "exceptional" profits from these deals.

The next stage in CPM's development will be to establish an online business to supply stock, primarily electronics products, directly to traders. It will launch Estock, a membership-only trade website, in the next six weeks. All members will be vetted and one of the conditions will be that they cannot disclose how much they paid for goods they bought from Estock.

CPM will also sell products over www.boffer.co.uk, a discount shopping website, in which Rasul is an investor. Boffer focuses on selling one cut-price product a day until supplies run out. Rasul has recently released more funds to Boffer to allow it to launch a complete "reverse auction" site in the next few weeks.

Rasul says: "A TV, for example, will go on sale for 1,000 on Boffer. If no one buys it within three minutes the price will drop to 950 and continue to fall until it goes."

The next stage will be for Rasul to invest in Boffer's online shopping club for members only.

Rasul, who built his fortune from electronics and property, recently became one of two 'dragons' on an internet version of the BBC's Dragons' Den series who take pitches from businesses looking for investment.

He says: "It's brilliant, as the online version reaches a younger demographic who may not normally watch Dragons' Den on TV."

However, Rasul says he is "battening down" the hatches on his E-net Computers operation and his property interests. He says he is not breaking any banking covenants and plans to "ride out the storm". He has not bought any properties for about a year as he expects prices to fall further as banks flood the market with repossessed flats and houses.

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Earlier this year Rasul joined Winning Entrepreneurs, a networking group formed to help businesses work together to plot a path to beat the credit crunch. Its admission is limited to 120 emerging high-growth business leaders.

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