Debenhams prepares to seek new owners via a sale of the business

Debenhams is reportedly pushing forward with a plan that could see a change of hands  after retailer fell into administration for the second time within a year during lockdown.

Investment bank Lazard has been appointed to oversee a process that could determine Debenhams’s future and handle any talks with potential buyers.

Possible outcomes include the current owners retaining the business, potential joint-venture arrangements that could involve new investors, or a sale to a third party, Debenhams said in a statement.

Before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the UK in March, Debenhams operated from around 142 stores.

The subsequent lockdown prompted Debenhams to file for administration in April – the second time it has pursued that insolvency process within a year – and since then 18 stores have permanently shut down.

Debenhams never provided exact figures on how many jobs were affected by the store closures, but various reports suggest it could be in the thousands.

The administration process has also led to scores of job cuts in Debenhams’ head office functions.

Debenhams also reportedly entered lockdown with debt of £600 million.

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When it first went into administration in 2019, shareholders had their stake wiped out as ownership of the department store chain transferred to a consortium of financial investors known as Celine.

Shortly after, Debenhams underwent a CVA process that saw it close stores and renegotiate rents.

While Debenhams’ Irish operation has already placed into liquidation, a liquidation of its core UK business would only happen of all options have been exhausted.

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