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Debenhams secures £40m lifeline as it seeks financial and product revamp

Debenhams issued three profit warnings last year and is closing stores as it gets caught up in the sweeping decline of the UK's traditional retail hubs.


DEBENHAMS Plc secured a lifeline from some of its lenders, giving the troubled UK department-store company £40 million (S$70 million) in liquidity as it attempts a broader refinancing.

The company, which operates middle-market stores that anchor many of Britain's malls, also struck an agreement with export and logistics company Li & Fung Ltd on a sourcing partnership for Debenhams own-brand products. The deal will help the retailer anticipate trends more quickly and boost quality, chief executive officer Sergio Bucher said in a statement on Tuesday.

Debenhams is in talks with lenders and landlords as it struggles under about £360 million of debt amid dwindling sales. The company issued three profit warnings last year and is closing stores as it is caught up in the sweeping decline of the UK's traditional retail hubs.

"The extra lending facility gives Debenhams breathing room but its renegotiation of leases is seeming more difficult," said Louise Parker, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "The company has been trying to negotiate rent reductions with its landlords for over a year and we have not seen any progress."

Billionaire investor Mike Ashley, who has a stake in Debenhams, last month engineered a shareholder-vote coup in which he forced out chairman Ian Cheshire and drove Mr Bucher off the board. The new credit line provides the same amount of financing as Mr Ashley offered to the company last year, which Debenhams turned down.

A company voluntary arrangement, a UK court process that can allow insolvent firms to reach agreements with creditors, along with a debt restructuring, may still be the only way for Debenhams to cut its onerous rent bill and remain current on its obligations, according to Ms Parker.

Debenhams shares rose 42 per cent to 4.45 pence at 9.15am in London on Tuesday, but the rebound comes after a multi-year plunge that has cut the company's market value to £55 million. The company's £200 million of bonds due in July 2021 were little changed at 50 pence on the pound, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The new secured credit facility will be available for 12 months and will initially pay interest of Libor plus a 5 per cent cash coupon annually, and will be secured over the assets of the existing guarantors of its revolving credit facility and notes. The company also agreed on a waiver and amendment of the terms of its facility to give it more room.

Investment funds including Alcentra, Angelo Gordon & Co, and Silver Point Capital bought tranches of the existing £320 million facility from original bank lenders last year, people familiar with the matter said in October. BLOOMBERG