Debenhams’ bid to seek protection from creditors will not hit Republic’s stores

Chain moves to fend off legal action that could force it into liquidation

Shops are shut due to Covid-19 measures but Debenhams  is continuing to trade online

Shops are shut due to Covid-19 measures but Debenhams is continuing to trade online

 

The move by UK chain Debenhams to seek protection from creditors will not hit its stores in the Republic, the company said on Monday.

The department store group confirmed that it intended putting its UK business in administration to counter possible legal action that could force it into liquidation. A spokeswoman confirmed that Debenhams stores in the Republic would “not be affected” by the move. However, its outlets in Northern Ireland are included.

In the Republic, the group has shops in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford, all of which are closed to comply with the Government shut-down of non-essential retailers as a Covid-19 measure.

Debenhams pointed out in a statement that Irish staff were on “furlough” under the Government’s pandemic scheme, which pays those out of work as a result of the crisis €350 a week. The group employs about 1,500 people in the Republic.

The troubled group said it would appoint an administrator to protect it against possible legal action by creditors while its 142 UK stores remained shut during the coronavirus lock down.

Current management will stay in place but act under the administrator’s control and direction, Debenhams added.

Under UK law, administration gives companies who fear they are unable to pay their debts protection from creditors. They normally appoint an insolvency expert whose legal duty is to rescue the business or get the best result possible.

Lenders took control of Debenhams, once Britain’s biggest department store chain, last April in an effort to keep it open.

Debenhams said that its lenders continued to support the chain and would fund the administration. The group filed a notice of intent to seek administration on Monday, the first step in the process. It also appointed Geoff Rowley and Alastair Massey of FRP Advisory to advise it.

“Debenhams continues to trade online across the UK, Ireland and Denmark, in line with government guidelines, while the lockdown continues,” the chain said.

It continues to communicate with workers in the UK, most of whom are paid under that jurisdiction’s coronavirus scheme.

Debenhams pledged that payments to suppliers that provide goods and services during the administration would be unaffected.

“The group is preparing to resume trading once government restrictions are lifted,” it said.

Stefaan Vansteenkist, Debenhams chief executive, said that the company was going into administration to protect its workers and business so it could resume trading from its stores once government restrictions were lifted.

“We are working with a group of highly supportive owners and lenders and anticipate that additional funding will be made available to bridge us through the current crisis period,” he said.