// Potential buyers for Debenhams told to submit bids by 5pm today
// Debenhams first went up for sale in July
// It had entered administration in April
Debenhams has reportedly told potential suitors interested in buying the 242-year-old business to place their bids by the end of today.
According to Sky News, advisers from Lazard – who are working with the department store chain on the sale of the business – has asked interested buyers to submit offers by 5pm today.
Debenhams’ administrator FRP Advisory had drafted in Lazard in July, when the retailer was first put up for sale.
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However, Debenhams’ current private equity owners – a consortium of banks and lenders known as Celine – reportedly prefer a restructuring that allows them to stay in charge.
Last month, reports emerged that restructuring firm Hilco Capital had also been drafted in to work on “contingency plans” for Debenhams, should a sale or rescue be unsuccessful and it falls into liquidation.
Sky News reported that even if a sale is agreed, one of the potential scenarios being discussed by buyers is liquidating more than half of Debenhams’ store estate, leaving it with 60 sites.
It comes after Debenhams entered administration in April for the second time within a year – albeit a “light touch” one, meaning directors are still running the retailer rather than handing it over to the administrators.
The retailer has already permanently shut down 20 stores and slashed an estimated 6500 jobs since the pandemic gripped the UK in March – 2500 of which was confirmed just last month.
Before lockdown, Debenhams had around 140 stores and was in the midst of a CVA restructure, which had seen it undergo several store closures after the peak Christmas trading season.
Debenhams currently employs around 12,000 staff in the UK, across 124 stores – all of which the retailer has insisted are trading strongly.
It also trades from 45 sites in 17 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia under various franchise agreements.
Meanwhile, last month Debenhams’ parent company Celine reportedly hired Philip Watkins and Philip Armstrong from FRP Advisory as advisers to prepare its own administration.
The move means the firm does not have to pay overdue interest payments on £200 million of bonds. It had reportedly been due July 15.
Celine going into administration would not have any impact Debenhams’ sales, staff, customers or suppliers.