In readiness for Shrove Tuesday tomorrow we in the NTI newsroom are going to give you a collection of all the possible fillings for your restructuring and insolvency pancakes. There is a lot of it around this Monday evening, but it's all a little ... bitty.
Harding Retail, which operates boutiques on cruise ships from which you buy things you would not look at twice had you not passed them five times a day on the way to and from bingo and are out of your mind with cabin fever, has resorted to a CVA to cut its debt. In March 2020 the US Government issued a 'no-sail order' at about the same time as Harding would normally be issuing its employees with a 'total sale, everything must go order', and nothing has gone since then. KPMG have been appointed and rumour has it that Harding is mostly asking suppliers to accept reduced amounts in settlement of unpaid invoices. It is suggesting an upfront payment alongside a mechanism for creditors to recover up to four-fifths of their arrears, depending on its future financial performance.
Meanwhile PwC are over at Paperchase where Permira Debt Managers, the credit arm of the eponymous private equity firm and a secured creditor to the card and gift company, acquired the key assets of the business via a pre-pack. With tongue in cheek PwC advised Permira they “could consider” referring the purchase to the Pre-Pack Pool, but they gracefully declined, claiming not to be a connected party in the transaction and could not, in any event, afford the £800 (ex VAT) to do so, having already committed their annual budget generated by an investment portfolio that has 25+ current investments and £30 billion of committed capital. Paperchase have about £15 million of unsecured creditors who, as it stands, can expect to receive about 5p in the £1 ... just wait until the Daily Mail get hold of that one.
Burberry, where every shop window has chav-drool smeared across its panes, could have stumped up the £800 (ex VAT) for Permira, but have just handed back a £300 million loan to the Bank of England, which it received as part of the bank’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility scheme. It is thought they recouped the payment by selling three coats from its Mayfair store this afternoon. Burberry has also agreed to pay HMRC around £6 million in support it automatically received through the one-year business rates holiday designed to help retailers negate the economic impact of the pandemic, having had a storming Christmas season, not least in China where sales doubled as news has not yet reached the very Far East that it isn't cool to wear tartan scarves and match them with sunglasses cases.
None of the above will prepare you for the shock that planning applications for new stores have declined by 22 per cent across England as the 'high street' continues its shrinkage to a 'high couple-of-stores-including-a Poundland'. Applications have fallen from 3908 to 3037 as retailers continue to prioritise their online channels during lockdown. The City of London saw planning applications for new shops and shopping centres fall by 59 per cent from 37 to 15, while York was the city with the largest decline of 91 per cent from 11 to 1, according to research by law firm Boodle Hatfield. The vacancy rate for retail units across the UK had reached 13.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2020 from 12.4 per cent the previous quarter.
And finally ... the founder and former trustees of the collapsed charity Kids Company have won a High Court battle against being disqualified from other organisations. On the top of your pancake should sit a slash of colour, and no-one is more tinctorially unchallenged as Kids Company former CEO, Camila Batmanghelidjh who puts the psyche into psychedelic.
The OR, who is much more black-and-white about these things, had alleged that the charity's former leaders should be disqualified as directors because the organisation had been so badly run. And do you know what 'badly run' rhymes with? No fun. Mrs Justice Falk was having none of it. She said: "There was no allegation of dishonesty, bad faith or personal gain. There was no allegation of inappropriate expenditure in relation to any of the children assisted by Kids Company. The allegation is not made out against any of the directors and they are not unfit. The case against them fails." She then put on a pirate hat, pulled a party popper and sashayed out of the building.