Belfast Telegraph

Troubled Debenhams' five Nothern Ireland stores spared axe for time being

A Debenhams store
A Debenhams store
Mike Ashley who lost fortune as a shareholder
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's five Debenhams stores have escaped closure as the troubled retailer announced it will shut 22 shops in Britain.

Debenhams units at five shopping centres - CastleCourt in Belfast, Rushmere in Craigavon, Ballymena's Fairhill, Derry's Foyleside and Newry's Quays - were all unaffected by yesterday's announcement.

However, it is understood Debenhams may seek to renegotiate its rent on at least some of the stores as the business negotiates a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

A CVA enables a stricken company to stay in business by negotiating more favourable terms with creditors such as landlords.

Just 39 of Debenhams' 166 shops will be unaffected by the CVA, continuing to trade on their current rent.

However, the 22 stores closing next year will have a 50% rent cut first.

There will also be rent cuts on up to half of the rest of the stores, with 28 closures likely. But business advisory firm KPMG, which is advising Debenhams on the CVA, said it was unable to give the names of the stores which will be subject to a rent cut.

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The stores expected to close next year with the potential loss of 1,200 jobs are in Altrincham, Ashford, Birmingham Fort, Canterbury, Chatham, Eastbourne, Folkestone, Great Yarmouth, Guildford, Kirkcaldy, Orpington, Slough, Southport, Southsea, Staines, Stockton, Walton, Wandsworth, Welwyn Garden City, Wimbledon, Witney and Wolverhampton.

No detail has been given on the names of the 28 stores which are due to close in future.

Terry Duddy, executive chairman of Debenhams, said: "The issues facing the UK high street are very well known.

"Debenhams has a clear strategy and a bright future, but in order for the business to prosper we need to restructure the group's store portfolio and its balance sheet, which are not appropriate for today's much-changed retail environment.

"Our priority is to save as many stores and as many jobs as we can, while making the business fit for the future."

The retailer announced that it would pursue a restructuring last year, but the path for the process has now been cleared after control of the company was passed to its lenders.

Debenhams went into a pre-pack administration earlier this month, wiping out the stakes of all shareholders including Sports Direct's Mike Ashley.

Creditors including landlords will have the opportunity to vote on the CVA in a process overseen by advisers at KPMG.

Belfast Telegraph