Debenhams mulls asset sales; sees 'more positive trends'

Ailing department store chain Debenhams said it was mulling 'long term options' that could include asset sales, amid reports it was bringing in advisers to assess restructure plans.

'As we stated in June, the board continues to work with its advisers on longer term options, which include strengthening our balance sheet and reviewing non-core assets,' chairman Ian Cheshire said in a statement.

'This activity is in order to maximise value for shareholders and protect other stakeholders, including our employees.'

Reports on the weekend said the company had brought in KMPG to consider a range of options, including store closures and asking creditors to accept a compulsory voluntary arrangement.

There was no specific mention in Debenhams statement on Monday about a compulsory voluntary arrangement.

The company also said it expected to report pre-exceptional pre-tax profit for its 2018 financial year of around £33m, which it said was within the current market range of £31.0m to £36.5m.

Ebitda would be around £157m, while year-end net debt would be around £320m, which Debenhams said was 'in line with guidance and retaining significant headroom on our £520m medium term facilities'.

'We have continued to strengthen our financial position, including increasing headroom on our fixed-charge covenant as announced on 1 August 2018, in order to give us comfortable liquidity through the peak borrowing period, ensuring maximum flexibility amidst volatile market trading conditions.'

The early weeks of the new season had shown 'more positive trends' and any sustained upturn would result in a rebound in profit performance, Debenhams said.

However, chief executive Sergio Bucher said the market environment remained 'challenging' and that 'underlying trends deteriorated through the summer months'.

'Nevertheless the product and format improvements we have tested are gaining traction and we are ready to scale up some of our strategic activity ahead of peak,' he said.

'Having put in place a leaner operational structure and strong leadership team, and taken action to strengthen our financial position, we are well equipped to navigate these market conditions and take advantage of any trading opportunities that emerge.'

Sports Direct International is currently Debenham's biggest shareholder, having recently taken an almost 30% stake in the business.

At 1:25pm: (LON:DEB) Debenhams PLC share price was -1.53p at 11.27p