Debenhams is poised to seek more financial help to see it through to the crucial Christmas trading period just three months after investors were wiped out when the chain crashed into administration.
Sky News has learnt that the department store group has told its lending syndicate that it expects to require access to additional borrowing facilities of about £50m as soon as this autumn.
The disclosure will raise renewed questions about Debenhams’ trading performance since an insolvency process in April led to it being taken over by its creditors.
The company has announced plans to close 50 of its 166 UK stores, with the first tranche of 22 closures planned for next year.
In total, the plan will lead to more than 4000 jobs being lost, the latest in a grim toll of high street casualties.
Sources said that Debenhams’ lenders remained supportive of the company and its transformation plan.
The £50m of expected new borrowing is in addition to a £200m facility secured in March, not all of which has been drawn down.
One insider said the extra £50m had been envisaged for some time but had not previously been announced.
The money is expected to provide a war chest for deep price cuts during a Christmas trading period in which bargain-hunters are likely to be well-rewarded as retailers fight an intense battle for market share.
The fact that Debenhams is having to strengthen its financial position so soon after outlining such a comprehensive restructuring plan underlines both the uncertainty over the company’s long-term future as well as the dismal high street environment in which it is operating.
Numerous chains have been forced to seek compromise agreements with creditors, the most prominent of which has been Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, the owner of TopShop.
His proposed restructuring is now the subject of a legal challenge from a US-based creditor, Vornado.
Hedge funds including Goldentree Asset Management and Silver Point now own big stakes in the retailer through a holding company called Celine.
Bank of Ireland and HSBC also hold positions as both lenders to and shareholders in Debenhams.
A sale process for the chain concluded in May with administrators deciding it had not received any bids that were sufficient for Debenhams to be sold to another party.
Debenhams is in the process of recruiting a new chief executive to replace Sergio Bucher, the former Amazon executive who left in the wake of the restructuring.
Terry Duddy, the company’s executive chairman, is also likely to step down once a new slate of board directors has been appointed.
The travails of the broader department store sector were highlighted again this month when the tycoon Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International said it was delaying the announcement of its full-year results.
Sports Direct said the complexities of integrating House of Fraser, which it bought from administrators last year, and the current uncertainty as to the future trading performance of this business were to blame for the delay.
Mr Ashley fought a bitter battle for control of Debenhams in the months leading up to its collapse.
Sports Direct had been the department store chain’s biggest shareholder, and tabled a series of proposals to refinance the business – all of which were rejected by the board.
The tycoon is now pursuing a legal fight with Debenhams over the Company Voluntary Arrangement plan that paved the way for store closures and rent cuts.
Mr Ashley has described the administration of Debenhams as a national scandal and called for it to be reversed.
Debenhams declined to comment on its future funding requirements or current trading performance on Thursday.
(c) Sky News 2019: Debenhams to seek fresh £50m lifeline from lenders