Intu Properties opposed restructuring throws Arcadia’s future back into doubt

( via– Wed, 5th June 2019) London, Uk – –

Intu Properties will throw Arcadia's future back into doubt by opposing its restructuring, Sky News learns.

The future of Sir Philip Green's empire has been thrown back into doubt after one of its biggest landlords decided to oppose a restructuring that would guarantee his Arcadia Group's immediate future.

Sky News has learnt that Intu Properties, which owns Manchester's Trafford Centre and Lakeside in Essex, is to vote against Arcadia's company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) at a crunch meeting of creditors later on Wednesday.

A source close to Arcadia confirmed that Intu – which declined to comment – had informed it of its decision not to support the proposed overhaul of Sir Philip's company, which would involve steep rent cuts at more than 150 stores, and the closure of about 50 more.

Other major landlords, including British Land, are understood to be leaning towards backing the CVA plans, although many will not make their decisions until the meeting in Central London gets under way.

One landlord said they had been made aware of Intu's views on Wednesday morning, with at least one other substantial Arcadia store owner said to be planning to oppose the CVAs.

Although the structure of the votes is complex, one insider suggested that Intu, which counts Arcadia brands as tenants at 35 units, could have sufficient influence to derail one of the seven CVAs on its own.

If that were to happen, it would imperil Sir Philip's ability to salvage his retail empire, heightening the anxiety of 18,000 workers about their future employment.

Unless the CVAs are approved, Arcadia, which also owns Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, is likely to collapse into administration as soon as Wednesday evening.

“It's on a knife-edge,” said a source close to one of the company's landlords.

An Arcadia spokesman declined to comment on the CVA voting on Wednesday morning.

A property industry source said that some landlords had expressed reservations about supporting Arcadia's CVAs because it would be difficult to justify to other tenants that they should continue paying their existing rent bills.

The source added that an administration of Arcadia would not necessarily be bad news for some landlords because brands such as Topshop would be snapped up by new owners.

The latest development came little more than 12 hours after the pensions watchdog and Arcadia confirmed they had reached a deal that would see the Pension Protection Fund supporting the retailer's restructuring.

Sir Philip Green has agreed to hand another £25m to Arcadia's pension scheme in the form of security over property assets, taking the total pledged to its retirement fund over the next three years to £385m.

The conclusion of a deal, which follows months of negotiations, came just days after the regulator demanded £50m of additional contributions from Sir Philip.

The decision to accept a lower sum may therefore attract some scrutiny, particularly if Arcadia fails to trade its way through a brutal retail environment in the coming years.

The fact that landlords could yet scupper the CVAs underlines the thread by which Sir Philip's business – and his legacy as a retailer – still hangs.

Trade creditors have already indicated their intention to vote in favour, according to one source close to Arcadia.

If Arcadia does collapse, it would be the most stunning casualty in a sector brutalised by difficult trading conditions in recent years.

While big names such as Debenhams, House of Fraser, Maplin and Toys ‘R' Us have all entered some form of insolvency or disappeared, the demise of a tycoon widely lauded as “the king of the high street” would be the most notable by far.

Arcadia's collapse into administration would herald a break-up of the group, with significant interest likely to be registered in buying Topshop but a lesser appetite for a takeover of brands like Evans and Wallis.

Deloitte is understood to have been placed on standby to act as Arcadia's administrator, according to creditors who have been briefed on the process.

Under Arcadia's proposals, nearly 50 stores will close with the loss of well over 500 jobs.

If approved, the CVAs would result in rents at nearly 200 shops being cut by between 30% and 70%.

In return, landlords would be handed a 20% stake in the company.

Sir Philip – whose wife, Lady Tina, is technically Arcadia's owner – has also pledged another £50m to the company.

That money would be used to support working capital, while another £50m of the tycoon's fortune has already been used to pay down part of the group's bank debt.

The tycoon recently paid $1 (76p) to buy back his private equity partner's 25% stake in Topshop and Topman in April, has been remote from the negotiations about Arcadia's future.

A deal between TPR and Sir Philip averts the risk of the regulator being blamed if Arcadia goes bust, which would result in an outcome for nearly 10,000 pension scheme members that is ultimately inferior to the deal proposed by Sir Philip.

In 2017, he agreed to pay up to £363m to compensate BHS pensioners following a furious row over the department store chain's collapse little more than a year after he sold it for £1 to the former bankrupt, Dominic Chappell.

The efforts to secure Arcadia's future come after a miserable period for the tycoon, who has been embroiled in a storm over his behaviour towards Arcadia employees and his use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent former workers discussing their severance packages.

On Friday, he was charged in Arizona in relation to his behaviour towards a Pilates instructor, although he has denied any unlawful wrongdoing.

By Mark Kleinman