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60 jobs in Belfast at risk as Patisserie Valerie enters administration

The cafe and cake chain has been hit by a financial scandal over its accounts
The cafe and cake chain has been hit by a financial scandal over its accounts

By Ravender Sembhy

Cake chain Patisserie Valerie has collapsed into administration, putting more than 3,000 jobs at risk.

The firm has three cafes in Belfast - at Donegall Square, Castle Lane and Forestside Shopping Centre - which employ around 60 people.

It said discussions with its lenders HSBC and Barclays to extend a standstill agreement on its debts had failed, leaving it with no option but to appoint KPMG as administrator.

KPMG said that it would continue to trade 121 out of 200 stores, but added that 70 cafes and concessions would close over the next few days, resulting in a "significant number" of redundancies.

Blair Nimmo, head of restructuring at KPMG and joint administrator, added: "Our intention is to continue trading across the profitable stores, as collectively the brands have a strong presence on the high street and have proven very popular with consumers.

"At the same time we will be seeking a buyer for the business and are hopeful of a good level of interest.

"Unfortunately, however, we have had to take the difficult decision to close 70 stores resulting in a significant number of redundancies.

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"We will be working with those affected employees, providing all support and assistance they need."

The cake firm's parent company Patisserie Holdings has been grappling with the fallout of an accounting fraud since last October.

It said last night that the extent of fraud meant it was unable to renew its bank loans and did not have sufficient funding to continue trading.

Chairman Luke Johnson has extended an unsecured, interest-free loan to help ensure that the January wages are paid to all staff working in the ongoing business, the company added.

The loan will also assist the administrators in trading as many profitable stores as possible while a sale process is undertaken.

Patisserie last week revealed KPMG had been hired to carry out a review of all options following the accounting scandal which pushed it close to collapse last year.

It also unveiled the "devastating" extent of irregularities in its books, which included thousands of false entries into the company's ledgers.

The firm said an initial investigation pointed to cashflow and profitability being worse than previously thought when the problem was first discovered in October.

The discovery of a black hole in the company's accounts in October last year pushed it into a crisis which saw it almost cease trading.

A rescue plan was passed by shareholders in November, resulting in the issue of £15m worth of new shares.

Belfast Telegraph

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