United Kingdom

A Scottish shopping centre owned by a global asset manager is up for auction with a starting price of £1, in the latest sign of the downturn in the retail property market, the Financial Times reported. The Postings centre in Kirkcaldy, owned by a pension fund run by Columbia Threadneedle Investments, is being auctioned through Allsop with a reserve price of £1 — implying a gross initial yield of 15.6m per cent, according to the auctioneer’s website. The sale comes as a crisis on the high street begins to eat into retail property values.

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Some of the UK’s biggest listed landlords face rent cuts as Debenhams seeks to ease the burden of a store portfolio that includes leases stretching as far as 2083, the Financial Times reported. British Land and Intu have the largest exposure to the struggling retailer, according to data from Colliers International, although people close to both companies insisted their stores were among Debenhams’ most successful. Other groups with significant exposure include Landsec, Capital & Regional and Hammerson, the data shows.

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Shareholders in the company that owns Patisserie Valerie are increasingly concerned that the café chain could be sold cheaply or even put into administration after it warned that its accounting problems ran deeper than initially thought, the Financial Times reported. Patisserie Holdings is in urgent talks with its lenders HSBC and Barclays to extend a financing agreement beyond its scheduled expiry on Friday and has retained KPMG to “review all options available” to recover and preserve value.

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Bank of England Governor Mark Carney on Wednesday likened the $2 trillion (£1.55 trillion) leveraged loan market to subprime mortgages that defaulted 10 years ago and triggered a global financial crisis, in a warning to MPs, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. Leveraged loans are made to companies that are highly indebted, and growth has been driven by investment funds and collateralised loan obligations (CLOs) linked to the loans. "We are concerned just because the pace of growth has been quite rapid for some time," Carney told the MPs.

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A prominent South African fund manager stands to become one of the biggest losers on a batch of New Look’s bonds that were in effect rendered worthless when the UK retailer launched a debt restructuring this week, the Financial Times reported. New Look set out terms of a debt-for-equity swap on Monday that will hand one-fifth of the company to so-called senior secured bondholders — owners of debt linked to specific assets. Meanwhile, holders of £176m of unsecured bonds have been offered just 2 per cent of the equity in the struggling fashion retailer.

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Britain’s financial watchdog has dropped a criminal probe into Credit Suisse related to an alleged fraud in Mozambique, but is still checking the bank and individuals for any breaches of conduct rules, the watchdog said on Tuesday. In 2016, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) launched an investigation into the Swiss bank’s activities in Mozambique, where around $2 billion of loans to state-owned companies pushed the country into a debt crisis, Reuters reported.

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Provident Financial, the London-listed subprime lender, shed a fifth of its market value on Tuesday after warning that full-year pre-tax profits would be towards the lower range of expectations because of an increase in bad debt, the Financial Times reported. The subprime lender, which also issued two profit warnings in 2017, reported a rise in impairments and bad debt at its Vanquis credit card division, which accounts for almost 60 per cent of revenues, and tighter underwriting conditions.

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The pound declined in Asia trading as investors start to weigh a worst-case Brexit after Prime Minister Theresa May’s bill was roundly defeated by lawmakers. Sterling slipped 0.3 percent to $1.2829, while also dropping against every Group-of-10 peer, with traders saying flows were thin as most investors stayed on the sideline, Bloomberg News reported. While May is expected to survive a vote of no confidence called by the opposition party later Wednesday, uncertainty over how she will pull together a new deal has spurred risk aversion.

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New Look Retail Group Ltd. joined a long list of U.K. retailers seeking debt relief as it announced a deal to reduce its 1.35 billion pounds ($1.74 billion) of bonds and loans, Bloomberg News reported. Many more are looking for advice on restructuring their balance sheets. The 50-year-old fashion chain agreed with a group of creditors to forfeit their claims in return for new bonds and majority control of the restructured business, according to a statement on Monday.

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Shares in Debenhams, the British department store chain that is fighting for survival, plunged as much as 22 percent on Friday as its new interim chairman began the task of trying to find a consensus among investors on the way forward, Reuters reported. On Thursday, two major Debenhams shareholders - Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct and Middle Eastern investor Landmark Group - forced Chief Executive Sergio Bucher off the board and Chairman Ian Cheshire out of the company following a drop in Christmas sales.

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