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House of Fraser’s future comes down to a vote

Chinese retail investor C.Banner International is ready to come to the rescue of House of Fraser.

And two Chinese banks have committed to extend a term loan and a revolving credit facility which would give the struggling UK department store chain time to restructure its operations.

But there is a catch to both commitments: UK landlords and creditors have to agree to a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) which would see  31 stores closed, 6000 jobs axed and rents on a further 10 stores reduced. It is unclear how its Chinese stores would be impacted.

The UK Press Association has reported that a £125 million term loan and a £100 million revolving credit facility have been extended by the HSBC and Commercial Bank of China. The repayment date for the loan wold now be moved out to the end of 2020 – enough time to allow House of Fraser to restructure its operations and reduce losses.

C.Banner International, which owns the Hamleys toy retail company, is poised to buy a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser and invest £70 million fresh capital. But only if the CVA is approved – which would take the agreement of at least 75 per cent of the company’s unsecured creditors. A vote is scheduled for June 22.

UK media are reporting as many as 12 landlords are in talks with a law firm about blocking the CVA. If they succeed, there is a possibility the department store business may be forced into administration. The landlords feel aggrieved that they would take a financial hit at the same time as House of Fraser receives fresh investment.

CEO Alex Williamson has warned that the CVA represents the only means by which the company could avoid collapse.

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