Vivarte: new shareholders in power

Vivarte signed its financial restructuring agreement on Wednesday, moving into the hands of its creditors who, in the process, engaged the departure of the group's president, Marc Lelandais, during a board meeting.

The group, which owns Naf Naf, Kookaï, André, Minelli, Chevignon and La Halle, and which was one of the biggest European LBO, concluded a restructuring agreement at the end of July by wiping away a 2 billion euro debt and converting debt into capital.

Vivarte thus benefits from 500 million euros in funding from its new shareholders.

With the signature of the "closing", more than a hundred funds become the property of the group, Oaktree, Alcentra, GoldenTree and Babson counting among its majority shareholders.

"With this debt now largely cleared, a healthier balance sheet structure and a reduction in the number of its creditors, dropping from 160 to 113, the group has the financial means for its development and strategic transformation," stated Vivarte in a press release.

Worth noting is that the document announcing the signature of the closing to staff was signed "Management" and not Marc Lelandais as in the past.

"Marc Lelandais is leaving with the signature of the 'closing'," Reuters said citing sources close to the matter. He will now be replaced by Richard Simonin, who the investment funds had already presented as a replacement in September, indicated one of the two sources.
Vivarte and its shareholders refused to comment on this departure.

The CEO of Vivarte, who arrived in 2012 after managing Lancel, launched a strategy to revive sales that did nothing to thwart the strong decline in the group's results.

His strategy was to invest heavily in La Halle (formerly La Halle Aux Chaussures and La Halle Aux Vêtements) and transform it into a single department store for Vivarte's B brands. That move failed.

The Ebitda (gross operating profit), which was 480 million euros at the end of August 2011, fell to 327 million two years later, with a 71 million euro drop for La Halle. The chain's return rate, meanwhile, dropped from 12% in 2011 to only 2.6% in 2013.

At the end of the financial year closed 31 August 2014, the Ebitda was only around the 175 million euros mark.

Labour unions are expressing their concern for the future of the group, which employs nearly 20,000 people in France and for which it can see a slow dismantling.

"We have no illusions about what the new owners wish to do: they are funders, not industrialists," CFDT unionist Jean-Louis Alfred told press agency Reuters.

He is anticipating the closure of a considerable number of La Halle stores and a possible sale of some of the beneficiary brands, like Minelli or Caroll.

Vivarte’s debt was incurred by Charterhouse Capital Partners for the acquisition of the company in 2007, before the financial crisis struck.

 

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