The Dutch government last year considered buying shares to the value of €50m in high street staple Hema, to save the company should it fail to reach a deal with its creditors, the NRC said on Friday.
The paper bases its claim on internal documents obtained using freedom of information legislation.
The cabinet’s original plan was to extend the coronavirus support and guarantee rules so that Hema could be bailed out, the paper said.
However, that idea fell foul of European Commision rules which said in May last year the guarantees could only be used to help companies which got into financial difficulty after the end of 2019. Hema has been loss making since 2013.
That led civil servants to work on a second scenario, in which the state would become part owner of the company. According to then-economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes ‘taxpayers would have profited’ from Hema’s future success.
Ministers, the paper said, were worried about the political and social fallout if Hema went bust. Not only would thousands of jobs go, but ‘Hema has historical and sentimental value to many Dutch people’, the paper quoted the ministry as saying.
The plan did not go ahead following the intervention of finance minister Wopke Hoekstra, who wanted to leave it up to the market.
At the end of last year, Hema was taken over by Dutch investment firm Parcom and the owners of the Jumbo supermarket chain. The big three Dutch banks ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank agreed to additional financing and a credit facility.
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