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Job loss fears at Ulster's 45 Xtra-vision outlets

The future for staff at Xtra-vision's 45 Northern Ireland stores remains uncertain.

At a High Court hearing in Dublin yesterday, David Hughes from accountancy firm Ernst and Young was formally appointed interim examiner of Xtra-vision.

Appointing an examiner allows the business the protection of the High Court as it seeks to negotiate a settlement with its creditors.

The all-island entertainment rental and retail chain, which is thought to employ 150 people in Northern Ireland, has suffered a €6m (£5.2m) drop in revenue over recent years, with property rent blamed as its main cost burden.

It is understood the company is paying rent for a number of vacated properties, due to difficulties exiting lease agreements.

It will have up to 100 days to restructure the business under the court's protection, but had to demonstrate first that it had a reasonable chance of survival.

Dublin-based Birchall Investments, the parent company of Xtra-vision, confirmed recently that backers had pledged €6m of investment in the chain, subject to an agreed scheme of arrangement.

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An Ernst and Young spokesman said: "It is likely that some shops will close and this matter is now being addressed by the company."

Belfast solicitors McGrigors advised Birchall at the time of acquisition, although it is no longer working with the company.

Dawson McConkey from the McGrigors Belfast office said that, in the current market, business rent was a common business woe.

He said: "Depending on the terms of the leases involved, tenants may be able to cut a deal with their landlords to accept an early surrender, but only at a significant cost as the landlord is then going to inherit the same problem in terms of finding an occupier.

"As well as rent, the tenant will continue to have to pay business rates in respect of each vacant unit - albeit discounted - which can be another significant overhead cost to have to bear."

Nobody at Xtra-vision was available for comment.