Probe into Comet’s collapse as last 49 stores shut
COMET’S last remaining stores traded for the final time yesterday as it emerged that events surrounding the chain’s collapse are to be examined.
The fact-finding exercise by the company investigations branch of the Insolvency Service will cover the run-up to administration and Comet’s takeover by a private equity-backed investment vehicle in February.
Deloitte, which was appointed to run the electricals retailer in November, closed the final 49 stores yesterday, having failed to find a buyer for any of the 235-strong estate. The collapse will cost a total of 6,895 jobs.
Comet, which was founded in Hull in 1933, is one of the biggest high street failures since the demise of Woolworths in 2008.
With insufficient funds raised from the winding down of the chain, it emerged that the Government will have to pick up the tab for £23.2m of outstanding redundancy pay, accrued holiday pay and pay in lieu of notice.
And a further £26.2m will be lost in unpaid tax to HM Revenue & Customs, which is an unsecured creditor.
The creditors report from Deloitte showed the investment vehicle put together by American Henry Jackson of OpCapita, which raised funding from unnamed investors for Comet’s takeover from French retail group Kesa Electricals, is expected to recoup just under £50m as a secured creditor, although the exact financial impact of the administration is not clear.
It received a £50m dowry from Kesa as part of the acquisition and continues to own Comet’s warranties business, which is not in administration. The report states the chain racked up losses of £95m in the year to April, having seen revenues slump by £200m on a year earlier. This was followed by a further £31m loss in the subsequent five months as credit insurers lost confidence and withdrew support for the business.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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