Belfast Telegraph

House of Fraser in Belfast survives latest closures

By Margaret Canning and Alys Key

Belfast's House of Fraser store has been spared in the latest round of closures at the chain as its landlord confirmed there was "no change" to its status.

New House of Fraser owners Sports Direct yesterday announced the closure of sites in Norwich, Nottingham, Lakeside in Essex and Metrocentre in Gateshead after it failed to reach an agreement with the landlords.

The sites will face closure in the new year.

But a spokesman for Commerz Real, the German investment fund which owns Victoria Square Shopping Centre in Belfast - where House of Fraser is the anchor tenant - said there was no change to announce in Belfast.

Earlier this year, Commerz Real said "we have been very satisfied with HoF performance and would like to further co-operate with them".

The landlord of the sites which will close is London-listed Intu, which also owns Lisburn's Sprucefield Retail Park and is in the midst of a potential sale to a group of investors.

Sports Direct said it had engaged with the company but was ultimately "unable to agree reasonable terms for these stores to continue trading".

Chief executive Mike Ashley said: "We had multiple meetings with Intu, but we were no further forward after 14 weeks.

"Unfortunately, these stores now face closing in the new year. I urge other institutional landlords to be more proactive to help save the HoF stores in their schemes."

Sports Direct is now in consultation with staff at the affected stores.

It comes on the same day as Intu pushed back the deadline for a second time on its talks with a consortium of buyers looking to take over the business.

A consortium led by John Whittaker's Peel Group now has until November 22 to make a firm offer.

Mr Ashley has previously made public statements attacking the "greedy landlords" of House of Fraser stores. It's understood many landlords are reluctant to agree to the low rents Mr Ashley is demanding.

The tycoon - who owns Newcastle United - has warned time is "running out".

Following his acquisition of the chain in August, Mr Ashley pledged to save around 47 of HoF's 59 outlets. Closures have already been announced in Edinburgh, Hull and Swindon.

Belfast Telegraph

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