House of Fraser seeks further funding - report

Under-pressure House of Fraser is reportedly seeking a cash injection as it struggles in a weak consumer spending environment that’s seeing lower fashion sales.


House of Fraser


The department store retailer is believed to have approached a number of specialist lenders in order to get access to tens of millions of pounds to get it through the undeniably tough conditions in UK retail present.

And how much is it looking for? Up to £40 million in emergency cash. Whether it's able to get that much is open to question given the weakness in UK fashion retail after a spate of failures and CVAs such as that of fashion chain New Look.

The multi-million pound lifeline that House of Fraser is now seeking could come from turnaround firms such as Alteri Investors, the Sunday Times reported.  But it also said that lenders may not be keen to lend money in such uncertain conditions. And of course, if they do, interest rates could be punitive.

Sky News also reported but there are mounting worries among House of Fraser's current lenders. A group of them are reported to have called in financial advisor EY over concerns they have regarding the group’s financial position.

Why is this? The company currently has hundreds of million pounds worth of debt and that's making lenders nervous with the news that it wants to take on more debt unlikely to make them feel better about their position.

The 59-store chain employs over 17,000 people if you take those working in its concessions into account, so a lot of jobs rely on its turnaround. The company has had a generally tough time since it was acquired in 2014 by Chinese group Sanpower and recent news that control of it was being sold to another relatively unknown Chinese company has raised major concerns.

But those issues around its ownership are a sideshow to the core problems of the company not selling enough product and potentially not having enough cash to properly fund its operations. Its Christmas trading saw sales falling 2.9% as it refused to resort to the heavy markdowns that rival Debenhams indulged in. Worryingly though, online sales also fell by as much as 7.5% at a time when most retailers at least managed to report higher online sales, even if their stores were weaker.

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