Uncertainty surrounds Irish branches of Patisserie Valerie

UK chain of bakeries must ‘urgently raise capital’ and has had finance chief arrested

Dublin branch of Patisserie Valerie on Henry Street. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Dublin branch of Patisserie Valerie on Henry Street. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Uncertainty surrounds the future of the two Irish outlets of UK bakery chain Patisserie Valerie after its finance director Chris Marsh was arrested a day after the company said it urgently needed to raise capital to avoid a collapse.

Separately, Britain’s anti-fraud agency said it had opened a criminal investigation into an unidentified individual after Patisserie Holdings shocked investors on Wednesday by saying it had discovered a potential accounting fraud.

A spokesman for the company, which operates outlets on Dublin’s Henry Street and in Blanchardstown, said it had no further comment to make on Friday. A manager at the Henry Street outlet, however, said there had been no drop in customer demand.

“At the moment, we are operating at 100 per cent,” he told The Irish Times. “We have no further information about what is happening but we are working as normal. We’re waiting to hear.”

Collapse

Patisserie Holdings, led by leisure industry entrepreneur Luke Johnson, said on Thursday it urgently needed to raise capital to avoid a collapse that would put around 2,500 jobs at risk.

Mr Marsh, who joined the company in 2006, was an integral part of its growth. Patisserie Holdings had just eight stores in 2008 and now operates more than 200 across Britain, focused on Franco-Belgian cakes such as mille-feuilles and eclairs.

Shares of the London-listed company were suspended from trading on Wednesday, when it said it had discovered a “material shortfall” between its reported accounts and its true financial health.

Patisserie Holdings’ accountants, Grant Thornton, had no immediate comment. The Financial Reporting Council, which polices accounting in Britain, said on Friday it was looking into the case.

“We ... will give full consideration as to whether further action is appropriate as more facts become available,” it said.

Patisserie Valerie traces its roots to 1926 when Belgian-born Madame Valerie opened a shop of that name in London’s Soho district.

The business was bought by Johnson’s private equity firm Risk Capital Partners in 2006. He made his name building the PizzaExpress restaurant chain. (Additional reporting: Reuters)