For the third time, the sale of Dutch high-street staple Hema – this time to Belgian investment company Core Equity – has foundered. And few options for Hema’s owner Britain’s Lion Capital remain, the Financieele Dagblad said on Thursday.
A bourse launch would be very difficult to pull off given Hema’s inability to attract even one qualified buyer. ‘Certainly not in this investment climate,’ one investor told the paper.
The question now is whether there are any other single buyers out there to pay for what is quite a risky international gamble, the FD said.
Core’s withdrawal from takeover talks – they stranded on adjustments in payments to Hema’s many franchisees – was an enormous loss of face for long-time Hema owner Lion.
High street staple Hema has a triple-C rating which generally indicates that the firm has a 50% chance of going bankrupt within five years.
Lion has to convince would-be buyers that Hema is worth more than its debt which stood at €868m at end-2017. The Amsterdam-based group paid more than €54m in interest charges that year, compared to just €500,000 in 2016. The sharply higher financing fees were due to debt refinancing including early redemption of high-priced bonds.
Lion seems to have no option but to upgrade Hema stores even more and try again to sell the company.
Hema is aiming at international growth, and opened 25 new stores outside the Netherlands last year, 20 of them in France. It also operates in Britain, Germany and Spain. The group is now opening outlets in Austria and in the Middle East.
Retail consultant Hans Eysink Smeets sees chances for Hema. He claims the group has come up with an exportable stores concept. ‘It works well in France and could also be used in South Africa or Brazil. There are opportunities in the Middle East,’ he said.
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