Restructuring firm Hilco steps in to offer hope though Borders experience suggests it may just prolong the inevitable
Collapsed music and movies chain HMV could be saved after restructuring firm Hilco took over the retailer’s debts from its lenders Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.
It is the first step towards rescuing the iconic music and DVD business after it collapsed into administration last week under debts of £176m. Buying the debt gives Hilco effective control of the business and buys time for the administrators.
Details of the potential rescue came as the stores started to accept HMV gift vouchers again. The administrators caved in to pressure to reverse a previous decision that had made the tokens worthless.
Hilco, a restructuring specialist, is thought to have the support of music labels including Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony for any takeover, having already bought HMV Canada in 2011 for £2m.
The record labels are said to be concerned that without a recognised specialist music retailer on the high street margins could be squeezed even further by cut-price supermarket and internet offers.
It is believed that the businesses, which are some of HMV’s biggest suppliers, may be willing to cut the price of CDs, DVDs and give HMV generous credit terms – something afforded to Hilco in Canada.
Although Hilco has not bought HMV outright, buying the debt hands them effective control.
Hilco is now expected to work with administrator Deloitte on moving the 92-year-old business forward and could save some of the 4,000 jobs and 230 stores under threat.
It is thought that RBS and Lloyds were owed around £30m each as HMV’s biggest secured creditors. It is not known how much Hilco paid to take control, but it is expected to be below the £60m the banks were owed.
A statement from Hilco said: “Hilco UK confirms that it has acquired HMV’s debt from the Group’s lenders. It has not bought the business itself.
“Hilco believes there to be a viable underlying HMV business and will now be working closely with Deloitte who, as administrators, are reviewing the business to determine future options.”
The business has faced criticism in the past for asset stripping distressed businesses and may not necessarily prolong HMV’s future.
In 2009 it bought bookseller Borders. The company’s five biggest stores were sold and less than five months later the business disappeared from the high street with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.
It has also been responsible for the unwinding of Allders and helped run the closing down sales at Woolworths.
Nick Edwards, joint administrator at Deloitte, said: “Following the news of Hilco’s acquisition of HMV’s secured debt, the administrators will work closely with them, as secured lender, as we continue to seek a positive outcome for the business. Stores continue to trade and at this time we remain hopeful of securing a long-term future for HMV as a going concern.”
As well as Hilco, about 50 parties have expressed an interest in HMV to Deloitte, including trade buyers and private equity groups. Game Retail – itself bought out of administration last year by Comet’s former owners, OpCapita – is interested in buying 45 stores.
HMV gift cards and vouchers worth up to £7m still in circulation were declared worthless when the retailer collapsed into administration on 15 January 2013. The move angered consumers because HMV had continued selling the tokens after warning investors in December that the group expected to face a solvency crisis by the end of January.