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Arcadia in talks over possible £30m loan after Covid sales loss | Retail industry

Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia fashion group is in talks with potential lenders over a loan worth tens of millions of pounds as it seeks to recover from the blow of England’s second coronavirus lockdown.

Arcadia, the parent company of brands including Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, could look to borrow as much as £30m to help it cover the gap from lost sales.

The company has sought talks with multiple potential lenders, Sky News first reported.

The latest English lockdown came at a perilous moment for many retailers, who were preparing for the Christmas rush and hoping to salvage the year following months of enforced closure.

Instead, shops selling “non-essential” goods have been closed since 5 November and will not be able to reopen their doors until at least 2 December, with the threat of further extensions if infection numbers do not diminish.

Arcadia’s brands operate about 500 sites across the UK, employing 15,000 staff. However, all of its staff in English stores have been put on the government’s extended coronavirus job retention scheme, which covers 80% of furloughed workers’ wages up to £2,500 a month.

Arcadia had struggled even before the second lockdown was announced. In July it announced 500 job losses at its head office as it tried to cut costs. Early in the crisis it asked landlords for rent cuts and temporarily paused payments into its pension scheme.

The financial difficulties have prompted management to look at a number of options for the business. These included work by advisers at Deloitte on potentially placing the company into administration to protect the company’s assets while directors attempted to sell its brands, the Sunday Times reported.

An effort to sell assets would represent Arcadia’s second restructuring in two years, after the company narrowly staved off administration in June 2019 through an agreement with creditors that involved 1,000 job losses and 50 store closures.

It could also see the end of a retail empire built by Green, who was once hailed by prime ministers as one of the UK’s most successful businessmen. However, Green’s reputation was dealt a blow after intense criticism of his £1 sale of the doomed BHS to Dominic Chappell, a former bankrupt with no retail experience. Chappell was this month sentenced to six years in prison for evading tax on income he received from the company.

Any restructuring arrangements would also be closely scrutinised by the Pensions Regulator. Independent pensions expert John Ralfe previously calculated that the Arcadia pension scheme’s deficit would be significantly higher if it entered administration.

An Arcadia spokesman declined to comment on the loan talks, but said it was not true that the company was nearing administration.

He added: “Clearly, the second UK lockdown presents a further challenge for all retailers and we are taking all appropriate steps to protect our employees and other stakeholders from its consequences.

“All our stores in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have now reopened, and we are continuing to trade online through our own channels as well as through those of our partners.”

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