Thursday 28 October 2021

Hema fans can soon buy bonds, big investors not welcome

The Hema store in Soest. Photo:

Fans of Dutch high street chain Hema will soon be able to buy bonds in the company as part of efforts to secure its status as a household name.

Last year, when the chain was rocked by a number of take-over bids, a citizens’ initiative was set up to stop ‘loveless’ investors taking outright control of the Hema by issuing certificates for €10.

The group, known as Het Enige Nederlandse Alternatief (the only Dutch alternative OR HENA) originally planned to buy shares in the company but that plan fell through. It has, however, won the support of the current owners in issuing the bonds, which will start from €10 up to a maximum of €1,000.

‘It’s a unique construction and a legal minefield, very difficult to get off the ground,’ HENA administrator and Labour senator Mei Li Vos told broadcaster NOS. ‘We wanted a safe and transparent financial product accessible to all. It’s not aimed at investors but at families and Hema workers.’

The bonds are not going to make anyone rich, Vos said, but are best seen as a way to ‘show commitment’. They are a financial product and like any other financial product it carries a risk, she said.

Interest on the bonds will depend how well Hema does rather than on interest rates. During the coronavirus crisis the company clocked up losses of €215m, the worst result in the history of the chain.  It is also reconsidering its presence abroad.

Vos expects the total amount to come to a couple of million euros. The move is meant as a gesture of support, Vos said, as Hema is now ‘in safe hands’. The troubled chain was bought by Dutch investor Parcom and the Van Eerd family which owns Jumbo supermarkets.

Bondholders, unlike shareholders, will not get a say in the Hema’s business strategy. ‘But they will be able to contribute to the discussion about certain issues, such as sustainability,’ Vos said.

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