Business

Debenhams warns Mike Ashley bid will not solve funding crisis

Debenhams store front Image copyright PA

Struggling retailer Debenhams has warned that a takeover offer from Mike Ashley's Sports Direct will not solve its imminent funding crisis.

Sports Direct said on Monday night that it was considering making an offer to buy Debenhams to save the retailer.

Debenhams said it would give any takeover offer "due consideration", but the timing meant it would not address its immediate funding requirement.

It plans to continue with its emergency funding plans, announced last week.

"Given the timetable associated with any public offer, an offer for the company would not, in itself, address Debenhams' immediate funding requirement," Debenhams said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Therefore, the company will continue with its plan to obtain the funding required."

Sports Direct said any offer was likely to be in cash, but added that there was "no certainty that an offer will be made". Under takeover rules, Sports Direct now has until the end of 22 April to make a formal bid or walk away.

Debenhams is currently seeking a cash injection of up to £200m from existing lenders.

Lenders have until Thursday to approve the cash call, which the firm says will allow it to restructure.

But it has warned that the restructuring means shareholders could see their investment wiped out.

Analysis:

By Emma Simpson, BBC business correspondent

Debenhams has had plenty offers of help from Mike Ashley in recent days - from a £150m loan to a £100m bid to buy its Danish chain, Magasin du Nord. The offers all had one important string attached: Mr Ashley would become chief executive.

Debenhams gave him the brush-off, saying his proposals didn't address the company's funding and restructuring requirements. Now Mr Ashley says he's considering a possible offer for the rest of the business he doesn't already own.

It's yet another attempt to take control of the struggling department store chain. Like other shareholders, he faces being wiped out under the current restructuring plans. He wants to protect the value of his investment, what's left of it. It's now a battle between Debenhams' lenders and its biggest shareholder.

Right now the lenders are calling the shots. They can call in their debts if there's a change of control, a move which would put Debenhams into administration. Some form of pre-pack administration is already an option as part of a restructuring plan to raise more money and sort out Debenhams' financial problems.

This may just be sabre-rattling by Mike Ashley. He's getting pretty good at it.

Sports Direct has a near-30% stake in Debenhams. It has already offered a £150m loan to Debenhams as part of a deal that would make Mr Ashley chief executive.

The sportswear firm also wants to remove all the current members of the Debenhams board except one.

Debenhams, which has issued a string of profit warnings, is trying to renegotiate its debts and restructure the business. It is also reportedly trying to accelerate plans to close stores and is expected to close around 20 outlets this year.

It has lost 90% of its market value in the past year as it struggles to adapt to the shift of shopping online and a spending slowdown on the High Street.

More on this story