Coronavirus: Debenhams sets deadline for submissions as fate hangs in the balance | Economic news

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Debenhams advisers have asked potential bidders to submit bids for the company on Tuesday as they seek to save a future for the 242-year-old department store chain.

Sky News understands that Lazard, the investment bank that handles the selling process, wants interested parties to submit their bids before 5 p.m.

Deadline comes as Debenhams administrator FRP Advisory looks to close a sale of the company by the end of the month, or prepare for alternative options that could lead to thousands of job losses additional.



Change in the face of retailing under the coronavirus

Debenhams job around 12,000 people in the UK, having collapsed in administration in April, when the coronavirus the lockdown has severely halted the income of street retailers.

Last month, Sky News revealed that FRP had lined up Hilco Capital, a distressed retailer liquidation specialist, to oversee a liquidation of Debenhams if none of the alternative options bear fruit.

Sources said the chain was marketed by Lazard under the code name Project Ariana and includes assets outside the UK other than Magasin du Nord, its Danish subsidiary.

In addition to over 120 stores in the UK, Debenhams operates from 45 locations in 17 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia under various franchise agreements.

Information circulated among potential buyers describes an ‘illustrative scenario’ whereby half of Debenhams’ UK ownership would be liquidated, leaving it with 60 stores, with the company potentially making a profit of up to £ 90million over the course of for the year ending February 2022.

In recent weeks, Debenhams has started battling an attempt to increase her business rate bill in Swansea, which she describes as a “test case” that will determine the group’s future.



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A spokesperson for the department store chain said last month: “Debenhams is trading strongly, with 124 stores reopened and a healthy cash flow.

“As a result, and as previously stated, the directors of Debenhams Retail Ltd have initiated a process to assess the means for the company to leave its protective administration.

“The directors appointed advisors to help them assess the full range of possible outcomes, including the continuation of the business by the current owners, potential new joint venture agreements (with new existing and potential investors) or a sale. to a third party. ”

The company declined to comment specifically on Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline for offers.

Sources insist Debenhams has exceeded expectations as the bulk of its stores were able to reopen in June and do not need to borrow money for the foreseeable future.

Hilco, who briefly acquired the Oasis and Warehouse brands after their collapse in administration earlier this year, also worked with Debenhams on the permanent closure of 18 stores this year.

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The development of contingency plans for the liquidation of Debenhams was another turbulent chapter for a company dating back to 1778.

He initially fell under administration in the spring of last year after a bitter public battle with the Sports Direct mogul. Mike Ashley, of which the Frasers group had become its main shareholder.

According to retail sources, Mr Ashley is considering an offer on Debenhams, but with a view to closing the majority of his outlets.

For much of its history, Debenhams has been very profitable, becoming an established key tenant in many main streets and shopping malls across the UK.

He returned to the London Stock Market in 2006 after a period of private equity ownership that proved lucrative for CVC Capital Partners and TPG but left his balance sheet struggling with what turned out to be unsustainable debt. .

After his first stint in administration, Debenhams launched a Voluntary Company Agreement (CVA) to secure an agreement to close stores and reduce rents.

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