United Kingdom

Struggling British companies have been forced to borrow close to £58bn in emergency loans backed by the government during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures released by the Treasury, the Financial Times reported. The data published on Tuesday — which show a rise of almost £5bn in the past month — comes ahead of an expected extension for the four schemes put in place to support bank lending to companies to help them survive the effects of the economic lockdown.

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Premier Oil’s biggest lender, hedge fund Asia Research and Capital Management (ARCM), plans to auction $200 million of the energy producer’s debt ahead of a $530 million equity raise by the company, three sources told Reuters, Reuters reported. ARCM, which holds more than 15% of Premier’s debt instruments, would retain about $240 million of the company’s debt if the auction succeeds. The bid deadline is set for Friday, one of the sources said.

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Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today is good advice for procrastinators and those in a pickle. Rolls-Royce is undoubtedly in a pickle, the Financial Times reported. And it has arguably been putting off an inevitable equity raise for months. But the situation facing the aerospace engineering group, which confirmed on Monday that it was evaluating a cash call of up to £2.5bn, is nuanced and not as straightforward as its weakened share price implies. It was always really a question of when, not if, with Rolls’ equity issue.

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Philip Day’s retail empire could be broken up after the tycoon launched a review of high street chains including Peacocks and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill following a number of unsolicited offers, the Financial Times reported. Mr Day, who has made a fortune by buying and restructuring distressed retail businesses, has received interest from potential bidders for all or part of value fashion chain Peacocks and his collection of “heritage brands”, which includes Jaeger, Austin Reed and Jacques Vert.

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Rolls-Royce is in talks with sovereign wealth funds, including Singapore’s GIC, as part of a plan to raise around £2.5bn from investors next month, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter, the Financial Times reported. The UK aero-engine group is working with bankers at Goldman Sachs on the planned equity raise as it looks to become the latest company to tap stock market investors to repair a balance sheet badly damaged by the pandemic. The group is aiming to launch the equity raise in the first weeks of October, two of these people said.

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Ferroglobe, the largest western producer of silicon metal, and its creditors have hired financial advisers to speed up a restructuring of the company’s $451 million of debt, two sources familiar with the situation said, Reuters reported. Ferroglobe, 53% owned by Spanish billionaire and former finance minister Juan Miguel Villar Mir, is under pressure as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates a slowdown in demand from the automotive industry, the main consumer of silicon metal, in Europe and the United States.

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Global demand for marine fuels is expected to fall by up to 17% due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on world trade, setting the stage for more consolidation among bunker suppliers, an industry executive told a conference on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Banks scaled back on their commodities trade finance after the coronavirus crisis led to defaults by some trading houses and exposed a series of frauds, leaving small and medium sized firms most exposed.

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Premier Oil has held talks on restructuring its debt with rival Chrysaor in a move that could pave the way for a tie-up between two of the largest UK oil and gas producers, the Financial Times reported. Premier said on Tuesday it had been talking with third parties including private-equity backed Chrysaor to refinance its debt as an alternative to an agreement reached with a group of creditors last month. While the approach by Chrysaor did not “provide better outcomes for either its shareholders or creditors”, Premier said discussions on a potential transaction continued.

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Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) Waste Essex went into administrative receivership in July after it lost a case brought by Essex County Council over a malfunctioning mechanical biological treatment in Basildon, Materials Recycling World reported. The court had then to decide on what basis Essex could recover legal costs and damages from UBB. The company also requested permission to appeal certain points of the judgment. A council statement said Mr Justice Pepperall had again found in favour of the authority and had refused UBB’s request for permission to appeal.

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A New ‘Chapter’ For Insolvency Law

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act (CIGA) received royal assent on 25 June, The Law Society Gazette reported. The Insolvency Service described it as ‘the largest change to the UK’s corporate insolvency regime in more than 20 years… [with] new corporate restructuring tools and temporary easements to give distressed businesses the breathing space they need to get advice and seek a rescue’.

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