Baugur founder Jon Asgeir Johannesson has attacked Icelandic bank Landsbanki after it petitioned for the investment firm, which has stakes in a host of high street retailers, to be put into administration.
Baugur went to court to start a moratorium process, similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US, to seek protection from its creditors, after restructuring talks with Landsbanki, the group’s main lender, broke down.
The move has created uncertainty surrounding the stakes that Baugur holds in businesses including House of Fraser, and Mosaic Fashions, and a host of other high street retailers, with speculation also increasing that Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green is hoping to buy stakes if they are up for grabs.
Johannesson strongly criticised the the bank’s decision on an Icelandic website, according to reports. He said: “This is a kick in the balls from Landsbanki and the result will be that the Brits will get some of the best companies owned by Icelanders at a very cheap price.”
“I am sure that Sir Philip Green is now dancing in his living room because he will get many of the our companies for next to nothing. Landsbanki didn’t give us any other options.”
However, Landsbanki, yesterday repeated that there were no plans to sell Baugur’s assets. In a statement on Monday, the bank said that it was supportive of the management teams of the retailers in which Baugur held stakes.
According to The Times, a Landsbanki spokesman said that the motive for the application for administrators to be appointed was to “maintain business as usual at these well run companies”. He added: The worst thing we could do is to sell them on in this current environment.
Chairman of Landsbanki’s receivership committee told The Daily Telegraph: “I want to reiterate again that it is not planned to sell any of Baugur’s assets especially since the market for such a sales is terrible at the moment,” he said.
“We plan to wait, even for years, and then sell when we can get maximum value for these assets.”
Baugur connected UK businesses including House of Fraser, Mosaic Fashions, Whistles, Jane Norman and All Saints have all stressed that the move will have no impact on the trading of their businesses.
Sir Philip Green, who has already previously investigate the possibility of buying stakes from Baugur, as well as private equity firm Alchemy have both expressed interest, according to the newspaper.
However Green said he had not been made any offers yet. “But we are ready, willing, able and have cash,” he said.