April 09, 2019
Department store expected to fall into hands of lenders, wiping out shareholders
Debenhams on brink despite Mike Ashleys last-minute offer
Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has offered Debenhams a £200m cash injection in a last ditch attempt to strike a deal that will prevent its stake in the business being wiped out.
But the department stores group is expected to reject the latest offer, as it is still tied to Ashley being appointed chief executive, which the group’s lenders oppose.
Debenhams remains likely to be handed to its lenders today via a pre-pack administration which would enable stores to continue trading but render the shares worthless.
Trading in Debenhams’ shares was suspended at the company’s request, “pending a further update”. At their overnight price of 1.83p, the group is valued at £22m.
Ashley had been set a deadline of 5pm on Monday to offer to inject new cash or make a fully funded bid for the company, including refinancing its £620m of debt and providing new working capital.
Debenhams said the offer tabled in the early hours of Tuesday morning was not sufficient to extend the deadline.
However, Sports Direct said it continued to “actively evaluate all possible options to support Debenhams” including a £61m bid for the company.
On Monday Sports Direct offered to underwrite a £150m rights issue but the company’s board and its lenders rejected the offer as it was tied to Ashley being made chief executive. The offer also called for Debenhams lender to write off £148m of the group’s debts.
In a new offer tabled on Tuesday, Sports Direct said it would underwrite a £200m rights issue as long as Debenhams installed Ashley as chief executive “as soon as practicable”. The offer also stipulated that Debenhams’ lenders agree to write-off £82m of its debts.
A rights issue enables new cash to be pumped into a business buy offering existing shareholders new shares – Sports Direct is offering to buy any not taken up ensuring Debenhams could raise the cash it needs to continue trading.
Laith Khalaf at Hargreaves Lansdown says today “will mark the endgame” for control of Debenhams. “The lenders have pretty much got things sewn up.”
Ashley has one final card to play, he said, which is making a firm takeover offer for the group. However, “even that seems unlikely to shift the retailer from the course it’s currently on, as it sounds like the department store is preparing to enter administration imminently”.
He added: “There’s a good chance Debenhams shares will end the day with a price tag of zero.”
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