Homebase future in doubt as creditors meet
DIY retailer Homebase faces a make-or-break vote on its future on Friday as it teeters on the brink of collapse.
The chain – where 70% of outlets are losing money – has proposed closing 42 stores and cutting rents on others as part of a rescue plan.
But some landlords plan to vote against the deal, or Company Voluntary Arrangement, saying it penalises them.
If it is not approved, owner Hilco Capital has said it is “very likely” Homebase will go into administration.
The private equity firm, which bought Homebase for £1 in June, wants to revive the DIY chain under a three-year turnaround plan.
This would see it bring back popular products, like soft furnishings, that were dropped by previous owners, the Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers.
Hilco has also promised to pump £25m of capital and up to £116m of debt into the business – but only if creditors back the CVA.
Alvarez and Marsal, the consultants managing the CVA process, say the rescue plan would be a “lifeline” for Homebase and benefit its landlords.
But reports this week claimed some property owners, including M&G and Aberdeen Asset Management, were considering legal action against the chain.
They feel the proposed rent reductions – of between 25% and 90% at 70 stores – are too steep.
They could seek to block the plan or renegotiate terms, although other landlords are hopeful the CVA will the revive the chain’s fortunes.
It comes amid growing anger about CVAs, which have been used to rescue struggling businesses such as House of Fraser, New Look and Carpetright.
Landlords say the deals lead to a sudden loss of income while other creditors are often left untouched. But advocates say they protect jobs.
Wesfarmers bought Homebase for £340m in 2016 but sold it on this year, booking a $1bn (£768m) loss.
It blamed a series of “self-induced” blunders, including underestimating winter demand for a range of items from heaters to cleaning and storage, and dropping popular kitchen and bathroom ranges.
Homebase, which has about 250 stores and 11,500 staff, now plans to bring back popular brands and concessions such as Laura Ashley and Habitat.
Hilco has revived the fortunes of other retailers and is best known for rescuing music chain HMV from administration in 2013.
However, the restructuring specialist also tried to rescue Allders and Allied Carpets, both of which later went into administration.
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Source: bbc business