United Kingdom

Struggling British department store group Debenhams said on Friday its shareholders could be wiped out as a result of some of the restructuring options it is considering and rebuffed a bid by Sports Direct to buy its Danish business, Reuters reported. Debenhams has issued a string of profit warnings and lost 90 percent of its market value in the past year. The company is trying to fend off an attempt by its largest shareholder, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, to take control of the business.

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Theresa May will face up to her own desperately weak political position on Monday as the U.K.’s elected lawmakers move to take over Brexit policy and her own ministers plot to oust her, Bloomberg News reported. The prime minister is under pressure from colleagues inside her Cabinet to name a date when she will step down, with some arguing this would help her win support for her Brexit deal, people familiar with the matter said. May is hoping for one more chance to put the divorce agreement she’s negotiated with the European Union to a vote in the House of Commons this week.

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The creditors of UK restaurant chains Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner have approved proposals to shut 27 restaurants and renegotiate leases for at least 13 others, the Financial Times reported. More than three quarters of the restaurant’s creditors voted to approve the plan — known as a company voluntary arrangement — which will see nearly a third of the two chain’s 70 restaurants close, putting 340 employees out of work. Sites include prime locations in Manchester, London and Glasgow. Franchised restaurants, of which there are 17, are not affected by the CVA.

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The U.K.’s biggest business lobby group took the rare step of joining forces with labor unions to warn Theresa May that she’s presiding over a “national emergency” on Brexit, Bloomberg News reported. Avoiding a no-deal split with the European Union is “paramount” and securing an extension to the process is “essential,” Confederation of British Industry Director General Carolyn Fairbairn and Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady said in a letter. The two also requested an “urgent meeting” with the prime minister. “Our country is facing a national emergency,” they wrote.

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British builder Kier Group on Wednesday reported a 14.5 percent slump in first-half underlying earnings on higher expenses, a day after it hired former Carillion CEO-designate to run the company, Reuters reported. Underlying operating earnings fell to 51.8 million pounds for the six months ended Dec. 31 from 60.6 million pounds, as administrative costs jumped nearly 35 percent to 202 million pounds during the period.

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For Irish businesses and for the Government’s Brexit economic planning, the latest events threaten that the uncertainty will just roll on, perhaps into the latter part of next week, just before Brexit is scheduled on March 29th, The Irish Times reported. They also show that the risk of a disruptive no-deal Brexit is not off the table.

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Stores are closing daily on the U.K.’s shopping streets in a crisis reminiscent of the U.S. retail apocalypse, and there’s no sign of a bottom, Bloomberg News reported. The latest casualties include Kate Middleton’s fashion favorite L.K. Bennett, cake baker Patisserie Valerie and entertainment retailer HMV, which has collapsed into insolvency twice. Department-store chain Debenhams Plc is shutting dozens of outlets as it fights billionaire Mike Ashley’s bid for management control. Rival House of Fraser is shrinking after being rescued by the tycoon last year.

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Philip Green is launching a restructuring of his Topshop empire, attempting to slash costs at the UK’s largest privately held fashion retailer and setting up a fierce battle with landlords, the Financial Times reported. The scandal-plagued billionaire wants to cut jobs, reduce the store portfolio and lower the rent and rates costs at his Arcadia group, whose brands include Topshop, Burton, Wallis and Miss Selfridge. Arcadia said it was “exploring several options” to cope with “an exceptionally challenging retail market and . . . continued pressures that are specific to the UK high st

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Outsourcing company Mitie Group is considering acquiring the largest unit of Interserve Plc, the troubled U.K. construction company that collapsed this week and had its assets taken over by lenders, Bloomberg News reported. Mitie’s chief executive officer, Phil Bentley, is working on plans to offer Interserve’s owners, which include a consortium of banks and hedge funds, about 100 million pounds for its support services unit, Sky News reported Saturday. This unit carries out facilities management work for government and various private sector clients in the U.K.

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Billionaire Mike Ashley’s latest bid to control Debenhams Plc has sharpened battle lines with the troubled U.K. department-store chain’s lenders as it seeks to restructure its debt and avoid insolvency, Bloomberg News reported. Ashley, angling to add Debenhams’s roughly 240 U.K. and overseas stores to his empire that already includes Sports Direct International Plc and House of Fraser, has launched an effort he’s dubbed “Project Serpico” to expose what he says is an insider plot to steer the iconic company into the clutches of foreign hedge funds.

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